House votes to end Covid public health emergency
Still, the disclosure that Biden plans to wind down the emergencies might have helped shore up the Democratic vote. The final tally was 220-210, with no member crossing party lines.
Republicans, who know the bill has no chance of being enacted with Biden in the White House, said their aim was to send a message and push the administration for a more detailed plan for winding down the emergency.
“We’ve been asking for one for a year,” Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee chair, told POLITICO. “Hopefully, this will have them send a plan … there are issues we need to deal with.”
Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), noting that Biden had declared the pandemic over in an interview with CBS News in September, argued it shouldn’t take months to unwind the emergency.
“I’m pleased the administration is following the House Republicans in finally abiding by President Biden’s own acknowledgment,” she said.
The end of the emergencies will halt a wide-ranging set of eased regulations established at the pandemic’s outset to bolster the country’s response. The administration’s move will mean many patients will have to pay for all, or some portion, of the costs of Covid therapeutics, depending on their health insurance or lack thereof.
The unwinding could also mean the end of Title 42, ordered by the Trump administration in March 2020 to shut down the southern border, though Republicans argued the policy could remain. The Biden administration has tried to end Title 42, but courts have blocked those efforts several times and Title 42’s fate will likely be decided by the judiciary.
Democratic leadership whipped against the bill Tuesday, saying the legislation would “abruptly end numerous policies” without sufficient coordination and leave states without billions in funding.
But they also said the emergencies shouldn’t go on indefinitely and backed the administration’s plan to end them in a few months.
“There’s a right way to wind down,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). “Make sure there aren’t vulnerable people that would be impacted …This isn’t a serious effort. This is about messaging.”
The House also voted mostly along party lines, 227-203, to end a federal rule requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Republicans plan to bring to the floor later this week the resolution by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) to end the Covid national emergency.
That declaration undergirds Biden’s plan, now stuck in court, to forgive some federal student loans. The Senate passed a resolution by Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall in November to end the national emergency, with 12 Democrats joining a united GOP in the 61-37 vote.
Marshall took advantage of a provision in the 1976 National Emergencies Act that allows senators to call for a vote on presidentially declared emergencies, and he could do so again.
Guthrie told POLITICO before the House vote Tuesday that Republicans would have a Senate vehicle to end the emergency in case the Biden administration doesn’t do so on May 11.