Walz snaps when asked about GOP priorities: ‘None of those things are real’

The governor lost his cool Friday as he and Republicans continue to butt heads over the appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Tim Walz (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz snapped at reporters Friday when he was asked about Republican priorities for a special session that has been in the works for months.

“They wanted an absolute ban on vaccine passports, which we don’t have a damn vaccine passport so quit pretending on the politics. My patience level is gone,” Walz said Friday during a visit to North Memorial Hospital.

The purpose of his visit was to highlight the current strain on hospital capacity, which some think will be made worse by vaccine mandates for health care workers. But according to Walz, vaccine mandates, like the one he imposed on state workers, aren’t “real.”

“Oh, we’re not interested in that. We need you to make sure that there’s a vaccine passport ban, that there’s a vaccine mandate ban,” Walz said, imitating Republicans. “None of those things are real.”

The governor, who has the exclusive authority to call a special session, was expected to call lawmakers back to St. Paul sometime in September to approve bonus payments for frontline workers. However, that schedule was derailed when Republicans went public with their plan to use the special session to fire Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, a Walz appointee.

Since then, Walz has expanded his wish list for the special session to include drought relief, waivers to increase bed capacity at hospitals and long-term care facilities, and even a vaccine mandate for public school teachers and staff.

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller responded in a letter of his own on Friday, saying Republicans would like to reform Minnesota’s emergency powers statute and address the “vaccination mandates recently imposed on Minnesota workers.”

“At this time, the only obstacle to addressing today’s needs is your unwillingness to put frontline workers and farmers ahead of the job security of your cabinet,” said Miller.

“The Senate’s constitutional authority of ‘advice and consent’ to gubernatorial appointments cannot be limited in timing or scope. Your publicly-stated position that a special session will not be called without assurances regarding the future of agency heads is jeopardizing progress on issues important to Minnesotans. Only you can call a special session,” he continued.

Miller replaced Sen. Paul Gazelka as majority leader in early September and has built a reputation as a moderate Republican who can work across the aisle to get things done. Walz wasn’t amused by his letter.

“Let’s be very clear: there is no state of emergency. Sending a letter demanding a change to the state of emergency is chasing whatever on that. Did that letter mention COVID and the crisis we’re in, can I ask? It just came over on my way over here,” Walz said.

“Understand that the letter was fired off because they knew I was standing here at North Memorial and it looks absolutely horrific that they’re not doing anything. So they fire a letter over and say the governor needs to change the emergency powers. We’re not in a damn emergency powers situation. We’re in a health care crisis that they can act upon.”

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