Amid COVID-19 Spike, Far-Right Lawmakers Gather In Boise To Condemn Pandemic Restrictions
Idaho is seeing a surge of COVID cases, but that didn’t stop 15 legislators from convening a rogue House session to decry pandemic emergency orders.
The Republican legislators, mostly from the far right of the party, wore no masks and sat next to each other against all medical guidance. About 200 people packed the State Capitol gallery above at close quarters, almost entirely without masks.
Rep. Vito Barbieri read a proclamation calling for a special legislative session. It claimed Governor Brad Little’s pandemic orders were unconstitutional.
“Whereas the governor’s office has exceeded its authority and violated the constitution’s separation of powers provision,” he said. “Exercising powers properly belonging to the Legislature, deliberately preventing and avoiding legislative participation as required by law.”
A spokesman for Little did not immediately return requests for comment.
House leadership stayed away and a special session is unlikely. But the gathering seemed to further exacerbate deep fissures in the Idaho Republican Party.
“Our leadership should not be intimidating us or bullying us to not meet,” Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) said. “It's unthinkable that you as leadership will not join us today and will not push back on letting us do our job.”
Legislators gave speeches that veered from pandemic denial to World Health Organization conspiracies. Scott, who was once named in a domestic terrorism report, mused about a second American civil war.
Ammon Bundy, the Emmett man whose family has been at the center of two armed standoffs with the federal government, also showed up after urging followers to come and provide security to the gathering. But the turnout was much less than what he had called for on his Facebook page.
A handful of members from The Real 3%ers of Idaho militia also attended and some of the attendees openly carried rifles and handguns.
All of this took place in Boise in the midst of a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases in Ada County. The increase prompted the county to roll back reopening, shutting down bars and banning gatherings over 50 people starting after midnight Wednesday.
A spokeswoman or Boise Mayor Lauren McLean did not immediately return requests for comment on the health implications of the gathering.
Follow Heath Druzin on Twitter, @HDruzin
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