Republican attorneys general for 24 states across the U.S. sent a letter Thursday to President Joe Biden, threatening a lawsuit over his administration’s plan to mandate that all businesses with at least 100 employees either require vaccinations or weekly tests for COVID-19.
But Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was not one of them.
Instead, Wasden submitted his own letter to the White House on Friday, still threatening legal action, with a different tone. State officials opposed Biden’s plan, the letter said, and urged him to reconsider. The letter was signed by Gov. Brad Little, Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder and House Speaker Scott Bedke.
“While we fully welcome creative and effective means to end this terrible pandemic, there appears to be no legal basis for the Department of Labor to issue an ETS (emergency temporary standard) of this nature,” the letter stated. “We respectfully ask that you rescind this directive to the Department of Labor.”
The letter strikes a milder tone than the one submitted by the 24 GOP attorneys general Thursday, when those states called Biden’s plan “a threat to individual liberty” and “a public health disaster.”
“Mr. President, your vaccine mandate represents not only a threat to individual liberty, but a public health disaster that will displace vulnerable workers and exacerbate a nationwide hospital staffing crisis, with severe consequences for all Americans,” the letter signed by the 24 AGs read. “Your plan is disastrous and counterproductive.”
All but two Republican AGs supported the letter. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, like Wasden, wrote a separate letter.
The AGs in three of Idaho’s neighboring states — Utah, Montana and Wyoming — signed the Thursday letter challenging the president’s vaccination plan.
Idaho, which on Thursday moved to statewide health care rationing at its hospitals, ranks as one of the worst states for percent of residents fully vaccinated, with just over 50% of the eligible population (12 and older) having that status, according to the Department of Health and Welfare.
But state legislators have faced mounting pressure to resist COVID-19 vaccine mandates after Biden’s announcement last week. Bedke, who is running for lieutenant governor, on Monday vowed to “take unilateral action wherever necessary” with state legislators against Biden’s plan. The Idaho Legislature’s Federalism Committee, tasked to review federal rules or regulations, will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
Previously, Wasden took heat for declining to join a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton with the U.S. Supreme Court that falsely alleged four states committed voter fraud in their 2020 presidential election. Nineteen Republican AGs signed on, in addition to several Idaho elected officials, including Little.
The Supreme Court rejected that lawsuit.
Little is among the nation’s governors who have said they will consider litigation against Biden for his recent COVID-19 vaccination requirements of large businesses. Aside from the president’s directive for private enterprise through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he issued an executive order on Sept. 9 that requires the majority of federal employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22.
The Republican Attorneys General Association didn’t respond to an Idaho Statesman request for comment. The Democratic Attorneys General Association also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Idaho Democratic leaders on Friday said the state needs “bold action” and “real leadership, not another wasteful lawsuit,” at a time the state is overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. The Joint Democratic Caucus said “those of us who trust science” have been begging residents to get vaccinated, but it hasn’t been enough.
“We need strong leaders who will do the right thing to preserve human life even if they face criticism,” the caucus said in a statement. “What we don’t need is political posturing. This frivolous lawsuit demonstrates a callousness to thousands of Idahoans who have died and will continue to die if nothing changes.”