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Senate votes to overturn Biden vaccine mandate for businesses

Republican lawmakers, with support from two moderate Democrats, blocked a vaccine mandate Biden created for private businesses. Its future now hinges on the House.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Senate Republicans, with the support of two Democrats, voted to scrap President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate that would require vaccinations at private businesses with 100 or more employees.

Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined with their colleagues across the aisle to reject the mandate by a vote of 52 to 48, condemning the mandate as an overextension of executive power.

Senator Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, led the charge against the mandate, noting he is in favor of the Covid-19 vaccine, but takes issue with Biden’s policy.

“They are miracles, but getting vaccinated should be a decision between an individual and his or her doctor, it shouldn’t be up to any politicians, especially in a mandate coming down from that highest authority, our president,” Braun said on the Senate floor Wednesday night. “The federal government has no authority to make anyone choose between getting a vaccine and keeping their job. Today, this body will stand up against this overreach.”

However, the Senate’s repudiation of the mandate is unlikely to be its demise, with the bill to overturn the mandate now moving to the Democrat-held House. Even if the lower chamber votes to scrap the vaccine policy, it’s likely Biden would use his veto to keep it in place.

The vaccine requirement issued by the Labor Department in November orders all workers at businesses with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated or be tested weekly for Covid-19 if they work in person at least once weekly.

The policy was met with immediate backlash and lawsuits from multiple states. A federal appeals court issued a stay last month, temporarily halting the implementation of the mandate which was set to go into effect Jan. 4. The mandate’s legal fate is now up to the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, where complaints by multiple states were consolidated into one case.

The federal government has emphasized that the mandate does not require people to vaccinated by providing the option of frequent testing to those who are opposed to immunization.

“OSHA thus crafted a regulatory approach that protects unvaccinated workers while leaving leeway for employers to determine the most appropriate option for their workplaces,”reads the government’s petition to the Sixth Circuit. “Taken together, these risk-mitigation methods will protect unvaccinated workers against the most serious health consequences of a Covid-19 infection and ‘reduce the overall prevalence’ of the Covid-19 virus ‘at workplaces.’”

But Senate Republicans rejected this notion, painting the mandate as a policy that forces workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

“Americans understand that conditioning employment on personal medical decisions, it is callous, it is cruel and it is immoral,” Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah said on the floor Wednesday.

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, defended the mandate, calling it a dangerous time for Republicans to be pushing back against vaccinations in the labor force as the omicron variant spreads.

“After all we have lost and all the hard work we have done to rebuild, we must not throw our economy and our communities and American lives into jeopardy by sabotaging our pandemic response,” Murray said. “When you’re fighting a fire, you don’t stop in the middle of it and turn off the water. That’s exactly what this resolution would do.”

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