‘The Rundown’: Utah Republicans planning how to oppose Biden’s vaccine orders

Lawmakers are working on steps to push back against the order, which they claim is unconstitutional

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Legislative Republicans infuriated by Biden’s vaccine order

During their Wednesday caucus meetings, House and Senate Republicans voted to get behind efforts to blunt the vaccine mandates for private businesses announced by President Joe Biden last week.

“We went over a few options as many of our members were upset about the overreach of the President.  We will continue to work with the governor and AG about next steps as we wait for a final rule to come out to decide our next steps,” Abby Osborne, chief of staff for the Utah House, said in a text message.

Biden’s order affects businesses with 100 employees or more who OSHA will require to have employees vaccinated or tested weekly to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Companies that don’t comply would be subject to fines. About half of Utah’s businesses have fewer than 100 workers and would not be affected. Biden also ordered all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated or lose their jobs with no option for testing.

House and Senate Republicans have decided to take a stand against what they claim is an unconstitutional overreach by the White House. To that end, the majority caucuses on the Hill voted to support Attorney General Sean Reyes’ efforts to work with other states to pursue legal action against the federal government over the mandate. Reyes joined with 24 other states on Thursday in sending a letter threatening such action. They’re also urging Gov. Spencer Cox to reject the new requirements.

Expect lawmakers to respond legislatively once the vaccine rule is released. That may take the form of a resolution saying Utah would not enforce any vaccine mandate. The resolution will likely be similar to the effort to declare Utah a 2nd Amendment sanctuary by refusing to implement any new gun laws they believe are unconstitutional. However, resolutions do not carry the force of law in the state.

The Supreme Court has long held that vaccine mandates are constitutional if they’re not discriminatory. In 1905, the Supreme Court upheld a smallpox vaccine mandate in Massachusetts that imposed a $5 fine for anyone who refused to be vaccinated. Under that precedent, experts argue Biden’s mandate would pass Constitutional muster as it does not criminalize vaccine refusal and allows for religious exemptions.

Legislators are also planning on holding a special hearing of the Business and Labor Interim Committee to gather feedback from employers and employees. It will likely be similar to Wednesday’s Health and Human Services meeting about vaccine requirements which was long on speculation and completely lacking in concrete policy proposals.

Here’s what you need to know for Friday morning

🤦‍♂️ Utah lawmakers watched a PragerU video attacking renewable energy sources during an interim legislative committee on Wednesday. The video from the right-wing group made specious claims that renewable energy had a more significant negative impact on the environment than fossil fuels. [Tribune]

🦠 The Alpine School District says guidelines for employees that said they had the option of not telling anyone they’ve been exposed to COVID were a “draft” and were sent to teachers and staff by mistake. The district sent out revised guidelines on Thursday evening. [Tribune]

⚖️ Attorney General Sean Reyes joined with two dozen other Republican AG’s in a letter to the White House threatening legal action over President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for private businesses. [Tribune]

🏛 President Biden and top Democrats in Congress are working feverishly to avoid a debt default and government shutdown as the deadline for raising the debt ceiling moves closer. [Politico]

👀Former President Donald Trump used an executive order to give six months of extra Secret Service protection for his adult children and other top executives. The move cost taxpayers $1.7 million. [WaPo]

🗳 Arnold Schwarzenegger said California voters were right to reject the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom and said the Republican field vying to replace him was “disastrous.” [LA Times]

🗳 A Republican member of Congress who voted to impeach former President Trump is not running for re-election. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez says he does not want to return to a GOP caucus that still supports Trump. [NYT]

💉 The FDA meets today to discuss COVID-19 booster shots. [CNN]

🦠 A surge in COVID-19 is forcing hospitals in the western U.S. to start rationing health care. [AP]

🇦🇺 President Biden’s deal to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia has angered China and upset allies like France. [WaPo]

😲 A new book says former Attorney General Bill Barr warned former President Trump he would lose the election because suburban voters thought he was “a f***king a**hole.” [Insider]

  • The book also said that former CIA Director Gina Haspel described Trump’s post-election behavior as a 6-year-old having a tantrum. [Insider]

⚖️ Special counsel John Durham announced a lawyer’s indictment who gave information to the FBI without disclosing his ties to the Clinton campaign. [WaPo]

📺 “My Pillow” head Mike Lindell is desperately trying to get his ads back on Fox News, but they keep rejecting him. [Daily Beast]

“Utah Politics” podcast

On the latest episode, I sit down with Grant Burningham who is the new Statewatch Editor for The Tribune. He takes over the political and government reporting teams next week.

I also speak with author Ben Mezrich about his new book “The Antisocial Network,” which details the crazy story of the GameStop stock short in which a group of Reddit users gamed Wall Street.

Listen to the episode here.

Friday morning’s Utah news roundup


  • FanX returns to Salt Palace, with thousands of fans masking up against the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tribune]

  • Why Salt Lake City International Airport’s confusing layout is better for the environment. [Tribune]

  • DABC sued over independent contractors, unpaid wages. [FOX13]

  • Shoshone tribe seeks to restore the Bear River Massacre site. [FOX13]

  • Backed by rap royalty, bipartisan politicians, Utah music producer works for marijuana-related reform. [ABC4]


  • 15 more Utahns have died of COVID-19, bringing the total to 300 since Aug. 1. [Tribune]

Gabby Petito

  • Police compare notes on Gabby Petito’s disappearance, couple killed in Moab. [Tribune]

  • Moab bodycam captures Gabby Petito, fiance after reported ‘domestic problem’. [Tribune]


  • Intermountain to merge with Colorado-based hospital system. [Tribune]


  • Take a tour of the historic homes in Salt Lake City’s earliest suburb. [Tribune]

  • Is Utah’s ‘fierce’ housing market cooling? Sales are slowing, but prices are still sky high. [Tribune]

  • Utah will soon see hundreds of refugees. Is there enough affordable housing? [Deseret News]


  • Police respond to ‘possible weapons offense’ at Provo High School. [KUTV]

  • Judge denies some Granite School Board protesters’ bids to have charges dropped. [KSL]

On the Opinion Pages

  • Utah should put federal money toward affordable housing. [Tribune]

🎂 You say it’s your birthday?!!

Happy Birthday on Saturday to Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch.

Best wishes to Kristen Cox, former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, who celebrates a birthday on Sunday.

Got a birthday you’d like us to recognize in this space? Send us an email.

— The Tribune’s Connor Sanders contributed to this report.