Idaho's Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin insisted Thursday on Newsmax that she was within her rights under state law to issue an executive order banning vaccine passports while Gov. Brad Little was visiting the nation's border with other GOP governors and said he has sparked a constitutional crisis by rescinding her actions.
"My action yesterday was to fix the governor's executive orders that he issued earlier this year, which exempted state agencies and people going into the state to receive services from having to be forced to have a vaccination," McGeachin, a Republican, said on Newsmax's "National Report." "My executive order fixed that by plugging a loophole."
She explained that Boise State University officials were trying to keep students out of their football game by saying they needed a vaccine or proof of a negative COVID test, "so my executive order was to close that loophole and to affirm that this also did not apply to our universities and our K-12 schools."
McGeachin issued her executive order Tuesday afternoon while Little was in Texas for a meeting with other GOP governors about President Joe Biden's handling of the border.
The lieutenant governor is running against Little for the top seat. The governor and lieutenant governor in Idaho do not run on the same ticket.
In her order, McGeachin sought to prevent employers from requiring COVID-19 shots. Little, though, said in a statement shortly after his arrival in Texas that he was there to perform in his official capacity as governor and that he had "not authorized the lieutenant governor to act on my behalf."
Earlier this year, McGeachin also took action while Little was out of the state by signing an order to ban mask mandates. The governor rescinded that order when he returned to town.
McGeachin said Thursday she issued the order "because thousands and thousands of Idahoans have already lost their jobs, and thousands more are set to lose their jobs because the hospitals in Idaho have issued a vaccination mandate and now we're seeing that extend to all other companies. They issued this mandate in early July and we've been trying to call attention to the governor and speaker of the House to call the Legislature back into session to address this, and they continue to ignore the cries of the people of Idaho."
Meanwhile, Little's move on Wednesday to rescind McGeachin's order means that "We have a constitutional crisis," because he took action while he was out of state, she maintained.
"I have seen his executive order repealing the executive order that I issued was signed at 12:30 p.m. yesterday," McGeachin said. "I was at an event last night at seven o'clock and he didn't show up, and they said that he was still out of the state. So if, in fact, that he did sign that while he was out of state now we have an additional issue, a constitutional crisis."
Little also accused McGeachin of trying to deploy the state's National Guard "for political grandstanding" while he was out of state, but she called him a liar "because I did not issue a call to deploy the Guard."
Instead, she said she wrote a letter to National Guard Maj. Gen. Michael J. Garshak, in her capacity as lieutenant governor, about activating troops and sending them to the U.S.-Mexico border.
In the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, McGeachin wrote to Garshak that "as of Wednesday, my constitutional authority as Governor affords me the power of activating the Idaho National Guard. As the Adjutant General, I am requesting information from you on the steps needed for the Governor to activate the National Guard."
Tuesday afternoon, Garshak responded with one paragraph, telling her that he was "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."
Meanwhile, McGeachin would not rule out pushing for other executive actions if Little leaves the state again.
"Everything is day-to-day," she said. "We make decisions according to what's happening during that time ... if we continue to have leaders that are tone-deaf to the people of Idaho and the needs of our state, you know I can't rule anything out for consideration. My job is to stand up for the liberties and the freedoms of the people of Idaho."
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