Senate Votes to Nullify Biden's Workplace Vaccine Mandate

But the House is unlikely to take up the resolution regarding businesses
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 9, 2021 12:00 AM CST
Senate Rejects Biden's Workplace Vaccine Mandate
Light from the morning sun illuminates the Senate side of the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 3, 2021.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(Newser) – The Senate narrowly approved a resolution Wednesday to nullify the Biden administration's requirement that businesses with 100 or more workers have their employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing, the AP reports. The vote was 52-48. The Democratic-led House is unlikely to take the measure up, which means the mandate would stand, though courts have put it on hold for now. Still, the vote gave senators a chance to voice opposition to a policy that they say has sparked fears back home from businesses and from unvaccinated constituents who worry about losing their jobs should the rule go into effect. “Every so often Washington DC does something that lights up the phone lines. This is one of these moments,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. At home, he said, "this issue is what I hear about. This issue is a top-of-mind issue.”

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. That's unlikely to happen in this case. 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 it would work with companies on compliance but would fine them up to more than $13,000 for each violation, though implementation and enforcement is suspended as the litigation unfolds. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said Americans who have refused to get vaccinated are the biggest impediment to ending the pandemic. He implied that some of the resistance to mandated vaccines is based on politics.

Republicans said they are supportive of the vaccine, but that the mandate amounts to government overreach. Some argued that the mandate may even contribute 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,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. In the end, two Democratic lawmakers 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."

(Read more vaccine mandate stories.)

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