Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin grabbed the reins Tuesday by banning COVID-19 vaccination “passports” and mandatory COVID-19 testing in the state while Gov. Brad Little was away on travel. She also sought information on deploying the National Guard to the Texas border.
Gov. Little was, in fact, in Texas on Tuesday, meeting with nine other Republican governors regarding the Biden administration’s handling of border issues.
“I am in Texas performing my duties as the duly elected Governor of Idaho, and I have not authorized the Lt. Governor to act on my behalf,” Little said in a statement late Tuesday. “I will be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return.”
This isn’t the first time Lt. Gov. McGeachin (also a Republican) has tried to seize power while the governor stepped away from the state. In May, she issued an executive order banning mask mandates while the Little attended a conference in Nashville. Little rescinded the order the next day upon his return, saying local officials should have the power to make mask policy decisions.
That didn’t stop McGeachin from trying to assert her authority again this Tuesday. “Today, as Acting Governor, I fixed Gov. Little’s Executive Order on ‘vaccine passports’ to make sure that K-12 schools and universities cannot require vaccinations OR require mandatory testing,” she declared in a tweet. “I will continue to fight for your individual Liberty!”
Idaho is currently seeing one of the highest COVID-19 case rates in the country. Though the delta-fueled surge is beginning to subside in some Southern states, Idaho’s case rate is still climbing. Hospitalizations and deaths are at record highs. The state’s health department activated crisis standards of care statewide on September 16 as hospitals were buckling under the weight of COVID-19 cases.
James P. Souza, chief physician executive for Idaho’s St. Luke’s Health System, provided a grim report about the state of hospitals and patient care late last month. “For the people who say ‘we all die sometime:’ Yes we do,” Souza said. “But these people didn’t need to die now, and they didn’t need to die like this.”
Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have only increased since then. Meanwhile, only 42 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.
Gov. Little is expected to return this evening and reverse McGeachin’s bans soon after.
As for deploying the National Guard, Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak responded to McGeachin’s information request writing, according to the Associated Press: “I am unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona… As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency.”
Little took particular offense to the deployment inquiry by McGeachin, who is running for his position.
“Attempting to deploy our National Guard for political grandstanding is an affront to the Idaho constitution and insults the men and women who have dedicated their life to serving our state and the country,” the governor said in his statement.