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Montana, Wyoming lawmakers laud SCOTUS ruling blocking vaccine mandate for private businesses

The country has also been slow in its rollout of the vaccine — less than 4% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
The country has also been slow in its rollout of the vaccine — less than 4% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Lawmakers in Montana and Wyoming praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday blocking a federal vaccine mandate for private businesses – but some say the court should have gone further and also blocked the vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate would have applied to businesses with more than 100 employees.

“The Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s vaccination mandate for America's job creators, ending this gross, unconstitutional federal overreach,” Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte wrote following the court’s ruling.

Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis, Montana Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, and Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale each released statements supporting the court’s decision.

Rosendale called the ruling a “significant victory for Montana businesses,” but said the “Court only got it half right” in not also blocking a mandate for health care workers.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen criticized what he called the court’s “split the baby approach.”

“The decision to allow the mandate for healthcare workers to go into effect while the case is fully decided is as nonsensical as it is disappointing,” he said in a statement. “Its effect on Montana’s rural medical facilities will be irreversible and devastating.”

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon echoed that, saying in a statement he applauds the court’s ruling to block the mandate on private businesses, but calling it “disappointing that the Court did not reach a similar conclusion on the CMS vaccine mandate.

“I continue to maintain that healthcare workers should not be forced to choose between vaccination and termination,” Gordon said. “We are still in the process of evaluating the impacts of this ruling on Wyoming’s healthcare workforce.”  

Montana and Wyoming both joined lawsuits challenging Biden’s various vaccine mandates.

Only Tester supports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ vaccine mandate for health care workers, which the Supreme Court upheld.

Montana Hospital Association president Rich Rasmussen said in a statement that in light of the ruling, the state’s hospitals “will adjust their policies to ensure compliance with federal law. … Noncompliance with this federal requirement could lead to termination from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

He notes CMS payments represent 70% of health care funding at Montana hospitals.

Montana law bans vaccine mandates, but the CMS rule supersedes state and local laws.