The Senate on Wednesday voted narrowly to repeal the Biden Administration’s vaccine and testing mandate for private businesses with more than 100 employees. However, the GOP-backed resolution is unlikely to overturn the mandate as the House, controlled by democrats, is not expected to take up the issue and Biden said he would veto the bill if it reached his desk.
The 52-48 vote was bipartisan, as two moderate Democrats, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, joined all 50 Republicans in voting to overturn the mandate — which was recently blocked by litigation efforts in red states.
“I’m not crazy about mandates,” Tester said before the vote, clarifying later that federal requirements were “burdensome regulations.”
Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who introduced the resolution, argued that Biden had no authority to impose the requirements and the mandate was an example of the “heavy hand of government” hurting businesses.
“It’s got Main Street America scared,” Braun said prior to the vote. “They’re worried about, well, what does this mean on other issues? Anybody who thinks this is a good idea, imagine the next time it happens when you’re on the wrong side on whatever the merits of the case would be.”
After the vote, Braun took his thoughts to Twitter: “This bipartisan vote is a crystal clear message to the @WhiteHouse: Back off, and stop this crazy federal overreach immediately,” he tweeted.
The Biden administration’s mandate, which would be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires private companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID or undergo weekly testing — a guideline poised to impact 80 million workers. Firms that do not comply face steep fines.
GOP lawmakers say the mandate is too broad and constitutes federal overreach. Business groups who oppose the mandate say it is too burdensome given strained economic conditions.
“It’s daunting to families as they’re facing higher bills for their gas and their heating,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said before the vote. “They are very concerned about what this would do to their long-term ability to get a job, keep a job. I think they realize that this is an invasion into their own abilities to make decisions about themselves in their health care.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY., criticized the Republican attempt to repeal the mandate.
“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,” Schumer said.
The Biden administration previously announced a series of vaccine mandates for private businesses, health care workers and military personnel in November. Prior to court intervention, the mandate on the private sector was set to go into effect in January.