President Joe Biden is not set to veto the GOP-led measure ending the nation’s COVID emergency, even though he voiced serious opposition earlier this year, which guarantees that the bill has a clear path to becoming law.
It marks the second time this new Congress has seen the Biden administration signal opposition to a Republican measure, rallying a majority of congressional Democrats to vote against it, only to soften its position and allow the legislation to become law eventually.
Just weeks earlier, Biden stunned many fellow Democrats when he refused to veto a GOP-led bill that would have rescinded the new crime code for D.C., which he and others in the president’s party opposed, allowing a GOP-led effort to crack down on crime at local governments to become law.
Republicans celebrated Wednesday’s development as a sign of their newfound power to splinter Washington, while Democrats lament silently that Biden’s administrators have changed their views.
But the White House stood firm, and the Senate gave final approval, 68-23, sending the bill to Biden’s desk.
A White House official said when Republicans first prepared to take up the legislation earlier this year, they were going to reverse their national emergency declaration on the coronavirus pandemic in February.
But it is much closer now to the White House’s own plan, which is to end COVIDs national emergency designation on May 11.
The president is still vehemently opposed to the legislation, said one official granted anonymity to discuss the situation.
But if that bill gets to Biden’s desk, he would sign it, the official said. Before voting, Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall, a lead sponsor of the bill, said he hopes rumors are true and the president finally signs the legislation. The legislation is a simple, one-line measure saying the state emergency declared March 13, 2020, is now ended.
It comes from one of the most conservative House Republicans, Representative Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and taps into a GOP-led pushback against mask mandates, quarantines, and other measures that were enacted during the pandemic to stop the spread of the virus.
It was one of the first bills introduced by a new House Republican earlier this year. At the time, the administration warned that this proposal would create havoc. More than 197 Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against it.
The administration said in an official statement on administration policy that ending the emergency declaration immediately would cause widespread chaos and uncertainty across the health-care system—for states, for hospitals and doctors offices, and, especially, for tens of millions of Americans.
In the days leading up to the House vote, the Biden administration announced its own plan for ending the emergency designations, which it had announced May 11, three years into the outbreak. The administration’s announcement meant the federal response to coronavirus would be treated more like a common threat to public health, which could be handled under normal agency authorities, instead of a pandemic status.
Just weeks earlier, Biden signed into law another GOP-led bill undoing a District of Columbia reform to its criminal code. The administration had earlier said that it opposed that bill.