U.S. Senate passes Republican bill to overturn Biden vaccine mandate

The U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/Files

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a Republican measure that would overturn President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses, with two Democrats joining Republicans to back the initiative.

The 52-48 vote sends the legislation to the Democratic-led House of Representatives, where it faces strong headwinds, while Biden has threatened to veto it.

The legislation would overturn administration rules ordering businesses with 100 workers or more to require vaccinations or coronavirus testing for millions of employees.

The measure was not subject to Senate rules that require 60 of its 100 members to agree on most legislation, meaning it could pass with just a 51-vote simple majority. Two Senate Democrats - Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana - joined 50 Republicans in voting for the bill.

The initiative underscores the intense political opposition facing administration efforts to combat COVID-19 at a time when health officials are trying to contain the highly contagious Omicron variant.

"I have always supported a vaccine mandate for federal employees and the military because maintaining essential services and military readiness the federal government provides is a matter of national importance," Manchin said in a statement following the vote.

"However, I do not support any government vaccine mandate for private businesses. It is not the place of the federal government to tell private business owners how to protect their employees from COVID-19 and operate their businesses," he said.

Manchin added he was fully vaccinated and had received a booster shot, and encouraged all Americans to do the same.

Republicans have said they were inundated with calls from businesses with up to 500 workers that are concerned about having to fire employees who oppose COVID-19 vaccines and testing.

"It's got Main Street America scared," Republican Senator Mike Braun, who was spearheading the legislative drive, said before the Senate vote.

The White House said in a statement on Tuesday that employers would face no burden from the mandate because the vast majority of American adults are fully vaccinated and noted that the rule exempts small businesses.

Biden's private business mandate has already been put on hold by a federal appeals court. A U.S. judge in Georgia also blocked a Biden vaccine mandate aimed at federal contractors on Tuesday.

"We are in the middle of a public health crisis. Everyone sees the damage it causes," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat, said in a speech. "The way to solve this is to be driven by science."

The United States has the world's highest daily average of new reported coronavirus infections. The virus has infected 49.5 million Americans and killed more than 794,000, the highest death toll of any country, according to the Reuters COVID-19 Tracker.

Republicans touted the measure's bipartisan support as a clear message of public concern about the mandate's potential impact on workers, businesses and the economy.

The chamber's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, branded the Biden mandate as an "illegal" and "absurd" government effort to micromanage the lives of private citizens.

Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Trevor Hunnicutt, Eric Beech and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Comments / 1059

Hazel Pittman

Just stop pushing the mandates they already know that it is Unconstitutional. I pray this is thrown out!! I will say it again and again If you want the vaccine cool If you don't then leave those people alone!!

Shannon Lucas

I have a very serious question for all sane , somewhat intelligent people .... No matter your race , your nationality , or the beliefs and values you hold dear ... Where did all the common sense , human decency and freedom of choice go in the age and era of Covid-1through 19 , 20 , 21 and 22 ..... When did we lose autonomy and decision making over our health and bodies .... When did good Doctors start getting reprimanded , suspended , banned on all social and and fired , for only putting out honest second opinions of the toxic and deadly side effects of these vaccine and mask mandates... Everyone please remember that tyrants don't ever get banned , they are the ones that do the banning and cancelling out.

trump 2024

but you have no idea what is in this shot, therefore, you are uneducated. all the vaccines you listed are just that. vaccines. made from dying or dead virus that let's your body learn how to fight it. shot is not a vaccine. it has nothing in it that is covid. why are the trial results sealed until 2075? why is there not a list of possible side effects like every other vaccine? if it's safe and effective, why hide information? covid shot had very little, if any, effects on whether or not you actually contract covid. as far as minimizing severity it's yet to be determined. I only know 3 people who had to be hospitalized, two were vaxxed and boosted. I got covid from a person that was vaxxed, who got it from someone who was vaxxed. I do not know of anyone who has died, or know anyone who knows anyone who has died. I just don't get how you can blindly inject some chemicals that up until a month ago, had no FDA approval. THE TOTAL IGNORANCE OF AMERICAN PEOPLE NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE ME. DON'T


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