Gov. Ducey sues Biden for the right to use federal funds to help spread COVID-19

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gives his final State of the State address at the Arizona Legislature on Jan. 10, 2022.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gives his final State of the State address at the Arizona Legislature on Jan. 10, 2022.

Gov Doug Ducey is suing the Biden administration, claiming he has a constitutional right to use federal funds to help spread a highly contagious, sometimes deadly virus in a state that already is among the nation’s leaders in its rate of COVID-19 infections.

Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

But then precious little has made sense since Arizona’s governor long ago decided to ignore public health experts and instead cater to those in his party who see masks as the end of the world as we know it.

So now, we’re paying a team of pricey private lawyers to sue Biden.

Is Treasury really 'power grabbing'?

It played well on Fox News and, no doubt, with this term-limited governor’s political advisers.

“The Biden administration is attempting to hold Congressionally-appropriated funds hostage and is trying to bully Arizona into complying with this power-grabbing move,” Ducey said on Friday, in announcing his lawsuit. “They’re going after education programs that are designed to help kids access in-person instruction, ensure schools stay open and give parents the ability to make decisions that are best for their kids.”

This “power grabbing move” is a pair of letters from the U.S. Treasury Department, warning Ducey that he can’t use American Rescue Act funds to reward school districts and parents who ignore Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend masks inside schools.

Ducey, having long ago given up on science, ascended to a whole new level of bizarre in August as the school year got under way and school districts began requiring masks.

A new state law barring mask mandates hadn’t yet taken effect and until it did, certain school boards reasoned that it only made sense to try to protect against the spread of COVID-19, as recommended by federal, state, county public health departments as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health care groups.

Ducey dreamed up 3 programs to move kids

So, naturally, Ducey, desperate to appease to his political base, dreamed up two new inducements to ignore that advice, using federal COVID-relief funds.

He offered $1,800 per student in bribes to school districts and charter schools that agreed to forgo mask mandates until the state ban kicked in on Sept. 29. And he offered $7,000 vouchers to parents who wanted to move their children out of public schools that require masks and into private schools that don’t.

School districts rushed to cash in. Parents, not so much. As of November, just 93 of them got a voucher to escape a mask mandating school, according to a review by The Arizona Republic.

Ultimately, the state ban on school mask mandates was tossed out by the Arizona Supreme Court, but the offer of COVID-relief funds to schools that refuse to require masks stands.

And this month, Ducey dreamed up a third federally funded program, offering a $7,000 voucher to any child whose classroom closes even for a day due to COVID-19 infections.

How are sick kids supposed to focus on math?

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department sent Ducey yet another warning earlier this month – the first came in October – threatening to withhold $173 million in funding, the amount Ducey has spent for the first two programs.

“By discouraging families and school districts from following (the CDC’s) guidance, the conditions referenced above (in Ducey’s programs) undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Treasury Department wrote.

Ducey immediately shot back with one of the applause lines from his State of the State speech: “When it comes to education, President Biden wants to continue focusing on masks. In Arizona, we’re going to focus on math and getting kids caught up after a year of learning loss.”

Apparently, all the kids who catch COVID-19 and are now absent from school because of Ducey’s appalling lack of leadership are at home, in bed … doing math?

Schools have enacted mask mandates and other public health policies precisely so that they can remain open. Yet here we have a governor who rewards schools that refuse to require masks even as he demands that they remain open.

Given that logic, is it any wonder he is (we are) suing Biden?

How dare those bullies tell us we can’t use federal money designed to combat a public health emergency to take action that’ll actually worsen that public health emergency?

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gov. Doug Ducey sues for ability to spread COVID-19 with federal funds

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