Idaho GOP ripping itself apart on COVID response

Idaho First District Representative Heather Scott

“On January, the Idaho Conservative Agenda for 2021 was released at a press conference,” District 1A Representative Heather Scott wrote in her January 17 Legislative Update. “They are particularly focused on reining in the governor’s emergency power and removing the tax on groceries. This is a great start towards helping Idaho citizens!”

All right-leaning Republicans, they have thrown down a gauntlet to Idaho Governor Brad Little, himself a Republican, contending he is too moderate and alleging that he has violated the constitution eight times in 2020 in his response to the COVID 19 pandemic.

They are working to end the governor’s March 13 emergency declaration even as the virus still runs rampant.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 101 was introduced January 13 by Senator Chuck Winder, president pro tempore of the Idaho Senate representing District 20, to “immediately terminate the COVID-19 emergency orders issued by the Governor while maintaining those declarations necessary to keep federal funding available for Idaho’s military, first responders, health care providers, and communities.”

“My concern with this approach is that under a new administration, the strings attached to those federal funds will likely not be in the best interest of the citizens, businesses, and families in Idaho,” Scott wrote. “The lure of tax dollars could influence some legislators to make the “emergency” continue forever!”

On the same day, she introduced House Concurrent Resolution 1, declaring unequivocally that the state of emergency declared by the governor March 13 is now ended.

Scott’s House Resolution has been referred to the State Affairs Committee, Winder’s has come out of committee with a do not pass recommendation.

Scott’s resolution contends that the emergency declared by governor Brad Little March 13, 2020, to “further prevent coronavirus spread in Idaho” is now ended, despite COVID-19 cases in Idaho and the United States continuing to climb, and a recently evolved variant of the virus first seen in England and now in the United States that is more virulent than the original virus.

With over 416,735 U.S. deaths to COVID-19 in the 316 days since the governor’s declaration, 1,667 of them Idahoans, Scott’s resolution contends that the Centers for Disease Control has significantly overestimated death rate numbers.

In the five years of U.S. involvement in WW II, the United States lost 416,800 military service members. Idaho lost 1,419 soldiers, sailors, aviators and Marines.

“WHEREAS,” Scott wrote in her resolution, “Idahoans’ lives and livelihoods have been greatly disrupted, and in some cases devastated, by administrative actions imposed through the governor’s emergency orders.”

Governor Brad Little

In an open letter to Idahoans released Friday, Idaho Governor Brad Little, himself a Republican, fired back at those in the Idaho legislature, mostly right-leaning Republicans, who are backing Scott’s effort.

“Some members of the Idaho Legislature are seeking political gain by perpetuating misinformation about emergency declarations,” Little wrote. “They are playing politics, and unfortunately the loser in this shameful game will be you – the citizens of Idaho. Members of the Idaho House admit they are not sure of the financial impact of ending the emergency declaration. Why, then, would you move forward with such a damaging move for our citizens, one that will cost Idaho taxpayers tens of millions of dollars? … I believe in my heart that what the Idaho Legislature is doing is harmful to our people and wrong for Idaho.”

In addition to Scott, the Idaho legislators signing onto Idaho Conservative Agenda 2021 are Senators Christy Zito and Regina Bayer and Representatives Ron Nate, Ron Mendive, Aaron von Ehlinger, Tony Wisniewski, Doug Okuniewicz, Wendy Horman, Julianne Young, Karey Hanks, Marco Erickson, Gayann DeMourdant, Brandon Mitchell, Judy Boyle, Barbara Ehardt, Julie Yamamoto, Chad Christensen, Greg Ferch, Charlie Shepherd, Priscilla Giddings, John Vanderwoude, Randy Armstrong, Kevin Andrus, Mike Kingsley, David Cannon, Terry Gestrin, Tammy Nichols, Vito Barbieri, Dorothy Moon and Bruce Skaug.

In response to Little’s letter, the Idaho House Caucus on Friday issued the following statement:

“Members of the House Republican Caucus will continue to work to address the concerns of the Idaho families whom they represent. The inflammatory comments from the Governor’s office do nothing but complicate the process. The life-altering concerns revolving around the COVID-19 emergency continue to be in the front of our minds. Our members are working on various forms of legislation to help the state on its road to recovery that Idahoans have been demanding for months and we call on the Governor to work with us in this process.”

“We are in the final lap of the pandemic fight and the finish line is close. We are so close to returning to normal,” Little wrote. “But all that success is threatened by the actions taking place in the Legislature right now … Let me be clear – undeniably, COVID-19 is an emergency. Hundreds of Idahoans have died and many more have been horribly sick. Many Idahoans still face that same terrible risk. The COVID-19 emergency declaration was requested by Idaho communities and it is critical in order for Idaho to receive federal assistance – your taxpayer dollars – to manage this crisis … Here is the myth: the emergency declaration somehow shuts down Idaho or takes away your rights. That is patently false. Amazingly, some in the Idaho Legislature are perpetuating that myth and actively seeking to end Idaho’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.”