The Senate voted on Wednesday to immediately end the COVID-19 national emergency — and the White House has indicated that President Biden will finally sign the bill into law, months after declaring the pandemic was “over.”
The resolution passed the upper chamber in a 68-23 vote, with 21 Democrats joining Republicans in support of the bill. In February, the measure passed the GOP-controlled House in a 229-197 vote.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly told Democrats before the vote that President Biden, who plans to end the emergency declaration on May 11, would not veto the legislation if it reaches his desk – which it now will.
“The President strongly opposes HJ Res 7, and the administration is planning to wind down the COVID national emergency and public health emergency on May 11,” a White House official said Wednesday, according to the Hill.
The White House said Wednesday that Biden will sign the GOP-backed measure ending the COVID-19 national emergency into law. Yuri Gripas – Pool via CNP / MEGA
“If this bill comes to his desk, however, he will sign it, and the administration will continue working with agencies to wind down the national emergency with as much notice as possible to Americans who could potentially be impacted,” the official added.
The emergency declaration was first passed by former President Donald Trump in March 2020.
In January, the White House quietly revealed that it planned to officially end the two emergency declarations related to the pandemic on May 11, nearly three years after they were first declared.
The measure passed the Senate in a 68-23 vote.Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., arrives for a hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.AP/Alex Brandon)
The announcement came in a statement of administration policy from the Office of Management and Budget opposing Republican efforts in Congress to immediately terminate the two national emergencies.
The White House warned at the time that ending the public health emergency and the COVID-19 national emergency immediately would lead to “chaos.”
“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the Office of Management and Budget wrote.
The White House had planned to end two emergency declarations related to the pandemic on May 11.Getty Images
Biden, 80, has kept the declaration in place since becoming president, despite repeatedly asserting last September on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ that the pandemic was a thing of the past.
The president has used the national emergency declaration as the foundation for his student loan forgiveness plan, which is still being litigated in the courts.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), who sponsored a similar measure last year that passed in the Senate but failed in the House, celebrated Wednesday’s vote.
“Our resolution forcing Joe Biden to give up his pandemic emergency powers just PASSED for the THIRD time. 67 of my colleagues said this national emergency is over,” Marshall wrote in a tweet Wednesday.
“It’s time for Biden to do what he should have done months ago and end the COVID national emergency,” he added.
House Democrats, however, railed against the White House on Wednesday, arguing that they voted against the measure en masse back in February at the Biden administration’s request.
“It’s frustrating,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said, according to the Hill.
“At best it’s [an] unacceptable lack of clarity in their message to us. I mean, if they’re gonna take the position that they didn’t explicitly say he would veto it in the [Statement of Administration Policy], you know, that’s not good. This is a problem. And, you know, we’ve got to have some conversations because this — they’ve got to do better.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) told the Hill that he found Biden’s change in position “surprising” and that he would “like to see a little more consistency” from the White House.
Doggett noted that the COVID-19 national emergency about-face was “very similar” to when the president shocked congressional Democrats earlier this month by announcing that he wouldn’t veto a GOP-backed bill to overturn changes to Washington, DC’s criminal penalties.
Another Democrat told the outlet that they were not blindsided by Biden’s Wednesday revelation because of what happened with the DC crime bill.
“Blindsided would imply that it’s completely unexpected; given this most recent experience with the DC crime bill I guess I’m not overly shocked but just disappointed,” the lawmaker, who spoke to the hill anonymously, said.