The Senate voted 52-48 to approve a resolution Wednesday to nullify the Biden administration’s requirement that businesses with 100 or more workers force their employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing.
Lawmakers can invalidate certain federal agency regulations if a joint resolution is approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, or if Congress overrides a presidential veto.
The Democratic-led House is unlikely to take the measure up, which means President Joe Biden’s mandate would stand, though federal courts have blocked it.
Still, the vote gave senators a chance to voice opposition to a policy they say has sparked fears back home from businesses and outrage from unvaccinated constituents who worry about losing their jobs should the rule go into effect.
“Every so often Washington D.C. does something that lights up the phone lines. This is one of these moments,” said Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana.
At home, he said, “this issue is what I hear about. This issue is a top-of-mind issue.”
Under the rule, private-sector companies with 100 or more workers must require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested for the virus weekly and wear masks on the job.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said companies could face fines of more than $13,000 for each violation, though implementation and enforcement are suspended as the litigation unfolds.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, like many Democrats, has claimed that Americans who have declined to receive the COVID-19 vaccines are the biggest impediment to ending the pandemic. He implied that some of the resistance to mandated vaccines is based on politics.
“Some of the anti-vaxxers here in this chamber remind me of what happened 400 years ago when people were clinging to the fact that the sun revolved around the Earth. They just didn’t believe science. Or 500 years ago when they were sure the Earth was flat,” the New York Democrat said.
Complaining that social media and “the far right” have helped to spread falsehoods about the vaccines, Schumer urged senators to vote against the resolution, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.
Many Republicans said they support vaccination but oppose Biden’s policy of forcing people to get the shot or possibly lose their job.
“His mandates are under fire in the courts. Main Street job creators are complaining against it, and tonight, the U.S. Senate must send a clear message: Back off this bad idea,” Braun said.
Some argued that the overreaching mandate contributed to people not getting vaccinated.
“I think, actually, the mandate has made it worse in terms of hardening people who don’t want to be told what to do by the government,” Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said.
GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said a telephone town hall she recently held with constituents made it clear they are concerned about losing their jobs under the Biden policy.
“If you look at my state, 40 percent of my state’s workforce stands to lose their job under this mandate,” Capito said. “It will be a killer to our economy.”
In the end, two Democrats voted with 50 Republicans to void the mandate: Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.
Manchin had said in a tweet that he does not support any federal vaccine mandate for private businesses. Tester’s office said his opposition is based on conversations with Montana businesses who “expressed deep concerns about the negative effect on their bottom lines and our state’s economy during this fragile recovery period.”
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington sided with the Biden administration.
“How on earth does it make sense right now to undercut one of the strongest tools that we have to get people vaccinated and stop this virus?” Murray said. “In what world is that a good idea?”
The White House released a statement this week saying Biden’s advisers would recommend he veto the resolution if it reached his desk.
“The president wants to see Americans back on the job, and Americans back at work should not face risk from those who are not vaccinated and who refuse to be tested,” the White House said.
Deaths in the United States stemming from COVID-19 are running close to 1,600 a day on average. The overall U.S. death toll less than two years into the pandemic could soon reach 800,000.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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