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Wyoming governor sees ‘blackmail’ in Biden approach to vaccine mandates

People gather in the gallery at the start of the Wyoming Legislature's vaccine mandate-focused special session. (John Rodel, CapCity)

CASPER, Wyo. — The clerk of the Wyoming House of Representatives read a statement from Governor Mark Gordon at the beginning of the Wyoming Legislature’s special session on Tuesday, October 26.

With the special session convened with the primary purpose of considering legislation to limit the impact of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Gordon’s letter commented on his perspective on President Joe Biden’s administration’s approach to vaccine mandates.

In August, the Biden administration announced a new mandate to require nursing home staff get vaccinated against COVID-19. In September, Biden announced that vaccines would be required for all federal employees. He also announced a mandate in September to require employers with more than 100 employees to require workers get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

“It has been hard to stomach the increasingly aggressive license the Biden administration has taken over the past few months to extend the federal government’s overreach into our lives,” Gordon’s letter stated. “This temerity is offensive to me, to you, to Wyoming citizens and to the Constitution that enumerates our rights. It must be stopped.”

“Regardless of whether overreach emanates from Washington or Cheyenne, we are opposed to its interference in our lives. Wyoming citizens have not been shy in expressing their objections to government mandates. We value personal responsibility much higher than we do government edict and we agree that Wyoming cannot let these federal transgressions stand.”

Gordon said in the letter that he thinks COVID-19 vaccinations “must be a personal choice.”

“I am incensed that the Biden administration would have the audacity to mandate that private employers require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and find it unconscionable to threaten to withhold Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements unless mandates are enforced,” Gordon’s letter stated. “Using taxpayers’ dollars in an attempt to coerce compliance is nothing more than blackmail. Our Constitution was written and fought for to protect our liberties as Americans, not to become an instrument of oppression.”

“The Biden administration’s pronouncements on these matters demonstrate its complete disregard for the rule of law and the freedoms that both individuals and private companies enjoy under our Constitution.”

Gordon said that he can relate to those in the legislature who are impatient to do something about what they perceive as the Biden administration’s overreach in issuing vaccine mandates.

He noted that he has directed Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill to prepare to take legal actions against the vaccine mandate for private employers.

He said Hill has been busy “strengthening alliances, refining potential arguments and considering appropriate legal strategies to stop whatever harm comes from Washington.” Gordon noted that Hill has partnered with a coalition of attorneys general expressing opposition to the mandates and that he has been in touch with other governors to discuss how to “confront this federal menace.”

Gordon said that he would be willing to call the legislature into yet another special session “should the need arise.” The special session that convened Tuesday comes before rules for the Biden administration mandate applying to private employers have been finalized.

Gordon, as he often does when addressing the legislature, touted what he sees as value to a citizen legislature as opposed to a full-time legislature. He said that he thinks the U.S. Congress sometimes falls to the “temptation to grandstand.”

While Gordon sees grandstanding happening at times in the U.S. Congress, the Wyoming Democratic Caucus see the special session itself as a chance for some Wyoming legislators to grandstand.

“The Democratic Caucus firmly believes that a special session is not necessary, that the proposed rules would violate the spirit of our deliberative public legislative process and that passage of these votes would only serve to create an opportunity for grandstanding instead of constructive problem solving,” the caucus said in a press release announcing that all of its members would vote against holding the special session.

Further information about the process for the special session and legislation that is expected to be considered is available in this article.

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.