New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella released a memo on Friday declaring concerns about a hotly-debated $27 million federal contract for vaccine distribution are unfounded.
But critics, like Republican Executive Councilor Dave Wheeler, remain unconvinced.
“They say, ‘It’s limited in scope so don’t worry about it.’ I say that’s garbage,” Wheeler told NHJournal.
Formella writes in the four-page memo the contract language is specific to the $27 million in funding to promote vaccination, and it does not obligate the state to any new federal initiative, like President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for employers.
“The quoted language is limited to guidance and directives ‘as applicable to the award’ and refers to a very narrow class of guidance and directives. The currently issued guidances are clarifications of existing grant requirements and do not impose new conditions,” Formella wrote.
Opponents of New Hampshire accepting the federal funds, many of whom have also raised questions about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, insist the contract would force state government to help impose federal mandates like Biden’s requirement all employees of large, private companies be vaccinated.
Formella says the U.S. Constitution provides protection for New Hampshire from any intrusive federal directives.
“Federal grant conditions must be unambiguous, and the United States Constitution places significant limits on the federal government’s ability to utilize funding conditions to require the States to adhere to federal directives,” Formella wrote. “There would be strong legal grounds to challenge any guidance or directive that created broadly sweeping new and different conditions, such as a vaccine mandate or quarantine provision.”
Sununu, who backs the contracts, issued a statement thanking Formella for his analysis.
“I appreciate that the attorney general has been very clear in his determination that these contracts do not bind the New Hampshire state government to any sweeping federal mandates, ensuring our state’s sovereignty in how we manage the COVID pandemic,” Sununu said.
Wheeler told NHJournal he strongly disagrees with Formella’s take. Wheeler claims, contrary to Formella’s memo, that the federal government will be able to enforce a vaccine mandate on New Hampshire if the state takes the funds.
“This is plain and clear that if the federal government were to say, ‘You either take the jab or lose your job,’ we would have to obey or give the money back. It’s exactly why we shouldn’t take it,” Wheeler said.
Activists with the ReBuild NH group agree. They’ve repeatedly claimed the contract language would force New Hampshire to accept every future federal COVID-19 order, including vaccine mandates and quarantine camps.
“I’ll take a lead injection before I take this vaccine injection,” ReBuildNH leader Andrew Manuse has said.
Contacted Friday, his fellow ReBuild leader State Rep. Melissa Blasek, R-Merrimack, said she had not yet read the memo.
“Haven’t had a chance to review it yet. We’re just volunteers,” she said.
The contracts were the catalyst for a protest at the last Executive Council meeting that led Sununu to postpone the meeting and announce the Council would reconvene in a safer environment.
RebuildNH helped organize that protest, though they distanced themselves from the behavior of some of the participants.
One protestor, Frank Negus Staples, made not-so-veiled threats against New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services employees. The employees were unnerved and subsequently escorted to their cars by New Hampshire State Police Troopers. Formella is now investigating the events that took place at the Executive Council meeting for possible criminal charges.
The meeting was being held at Saint Anselm’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics. In the wake of the protests, NHIOP has canceled all future government meetings.
The contracts were also scheduled to be considered by the House Finance Committee chaired by Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston. Weyler was forced to resign his chair after he shared a “Vaccine Death Report” with members of the committee that made outlandish claims that the vaccine contained squid-like creatures and was part of a plot being pushed by evil forces inside the Vatican.
The next Executive Council meeting is set for Wednesday, though the meeting location had not been disclosed as of Friday afternoon.