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Senate passes resolution to repeal Biden vaccine mandate, with help of two Democrats

NBC News logo NBC News 12/9/2021 Dartunorro Clark and Julie Tsirkin
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The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday to repeal President Joe Biden's vaccination-or-testing mandate for private-sector employers in a bipartisan rebuke of a key component of the White House's Covid-19 strategy.

The measure, which needed only a simple majority to advance, passed in a 52-48 vote.

It was supported by every Republican and two moderate Democrats: Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“I'm not crazy about mandates,” Tester said before the vote. He said later that the federal requirements were “burdensome regulations.”

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who introduced the resolution, argued that Biden had no authority to impose the requirements. Braun celebrated the vote Wednesday evening.

"This bipartisan vote is a crystal clear message to the @WhiteHouse: Back off, and stop this crazy federal overreach immediately," he tweeted.

Senate Republicans argue that while they consider vaccines important, they believe the mandate is “unconstitutional.”

“I want to go off script for a second and emphasize how important the vaccine is, especially booster shots for the omicron variant,” Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., told reporters Wednesday, shortly before the vote. “But the mandate is going to backfire. The people that have thus far have not gotten, have not received the vaccine are not going to do it until this White House acknowledges natural immunity.”

The resolution faces an uphill battle in the Democratic-controlled House. Republicans would need a solid number of Democrats to join them to force a vote on the measure.

If the House were to pass the resolution, it would then go to Biden’s desk. The White House has signaled that Biden would veto the measure, which did not pass with a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

Biden in September unveiled his vaccination-or-testing mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, as well as a vaccination requirement for federal contractors, to increase the country's Covid-19 vaccination rate.

An estimated 76 percent of Americans ages 5 and older have had at least one vaccine dose, federal data show. As of Tuesday, the U.S. was averaging about 1.8 million doses a day, according to NBC News data.

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Federal courts have blocked enforcement of the vaccination mandates, with some judges saying Biden may have exceeded his authority.

“The president of the United States cannot reach into every company and pick and choose who he wants hired and fired,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Democrats have argued that GOP opposition to the mandate is driving anti-vaccination sentiment in some parts of the country, undermining the country's response to the pandemic.

“We understand the power of our words in this place,” Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on the Senate floor before the vote. “Republicans know that when they come down to the floor and attack the vaccine mandate day after day after day, they know they are giving fuel to the fire of the anti-vaccine campaign.”

He went on to say it's "strange" for GOP senators "to suggest that there's no connection between the anti-vaccination campaign in this country and those that are every single day on the floor of the Senate talking about how dangerous it is to require that people in this country get the vaccine. There is a connection.”

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