Senate Votes to Block Biden’s Vaxx-or-Test Mandate, But Symbolic Gesture Unlikely to Stop Rule from Taking Effect

President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate that is set to take effect on Jan. 4 faced a challenge this week after the Senate voted 52-48 to block it. 

The regulation would require more than 100 million working Americans be fully vaccinated against the virus or consent to weekly testing, or in some cases risk loss of employment. On Dec. 8 Republican senators, along with Democratic Sens.

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Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, voted to block the mandate with a measure that will now head to the House of Representatives, where it is likely doomed.

The largely symbolic Senate vote was made possible under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which was passed in 1996 as part of the Contract with America Advancement Act — allowing federal regulations to be overturned with a majority vote in both the Senate and House. 

“Getting vaccinated should be a decision between an individual and his or her doctor,” said Indiana Sen. Mike Braun in opposition to Biden’s mandate. “It shouldn’t be up to any politician, especially in a mandate coming down from that highest authority, the president.”

Speaking in opposition to the resolution to block the mandate before the Dec. 8 vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “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.” 

Biden introduced the controversial mandate in conjunction with the Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the fall. Those impacted by the vaccine mandate would include:

  • Employers with 100 or more employees
  • Federal workers and employee of contractors in business with the federal government 
  • Head Start program and schools run by the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Indian Education 
  • Health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thing, and your refusal has cost all of us,” said Biden during a September press briefing taking aim at individuals exercising their right to refuse the vaccine, whether indefinitely or for the time being. “We have the tools to combat the virus if we come together to use those tools,” he added. 

More than 200 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Since the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020 just under 800,000 lives have been lost due to the virus, and related hospitalizations topped 100,000 as the highly transmissible Delta variant rampaged the country desperately attempting to resume its normal functions.

Now, with the Omicron variant picking up new cases day by day, the press for more Americans to get vaccinated, and receive booster shots, has added fuel to the politically divisive issue.

“If it comes to the president’s desk, he will veto it,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when speaking on the resolution’s potential to reach Biden. “We’ve got a new variant and cases are rising. The president has been clear we’ll use every tool to protect the American people, and we hope others will join us in that effort.”

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