Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Friday said the state is “exploring legal action” against Democratic President Joe Biden’s plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or routine testing for employees of large businesses.
Biden on Thursday announced a plan to require businesses with more than 100 employees to either mandate COVID-19 vaccines or require weekly testing. Federal contractors will also be required to be vaccinated, Biden said, with no option to test out. The president has directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft the rule.
Little in a statement on Friday said he is working with his legal counsel and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden on legal options. He called Biden’s plan “unprecedented government overreach into the private sector.”
“It is wrong for President Biden to dismiss the concerns of millions of Americans and tell governors who represent Americans that he will use his powers as president to get them out of the way,” Little said in a news release. “This is not leadership. When President Biden took office, he promised to do his best to unify our country, and he has only driven us further apart. President Biden is out of touch, and his mandates only add to the divisiveness within our country.”
The Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.
While Biden aims to require employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, some Republican state legislators and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin have tried to ban vaccine mandates in the state.
Little has urged Idaho residents to get the vaccine but continued to leave decisions on vaccine mandates up to private businesses. Dozens of House representatives have pushed for the Legislature to convene to consider banning mandates.
The governor also issued an executive order against “vaccine passports,” which prevented state agencies from mandating vaccines as a condition of employment or access to state facilities, including state university and college campuses.
In response to possible legal challenges from Republican states, Biden on Friday said, “Have at it.”
“I’m so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities,” Biden said during a visit to a school in Washington, D.C. “We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game. I don’t know of any scientist out there in this field who doesn’t think it makes considerable sense to do the six things I’ve suggested.”
The Idaho Republican Party also threw its support behind a possible legal challenge. Chairman Tom Luna called Biden’s plan “one of the most egregious and tyrannical violations of the 10th Amendment.”
“We will fight back,” Luna said in a statement Friday. “We will ensure that our state sovereignty and individual rights are protected and preserved.”
Biden’s announcement came just days before he plans to visit Boise on Monday.
Idaho battles COVID-19 surge as hospital ICUs fill with patients
Idaho continues to struggle with another COVID-19 surge among its unvaccinated population. Intensive care units have been filling up with COVID-19 patients, many of whom are younger, according to state officials and health care providers. The state has implemented crisis standards, a protocol to ration health care, in North Idaho earlier this week.
About 50% of Idaho residents 12 and older have been vaccinated, according to the state. The national average is 62%.
Little in a virtual AARP town hall earlier this month said he has no plans to return Idaho to earlier stages of the coronavirus pandemic that limited large gatherings and imposed other state restrictions.
The governor in his Friday statement said he still urges Idaho residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help children stay in school and keep residents healthy.