House Republicans pass bill to end COVID-19 public health emergency
House Republicans passed a bill on Tuesday to end the COVID-19 public health emergency, moving ahead with the legislation despite the Biden administration announcing one day earlier that the declaration would end in May.
The legislation — titled the Pandemic is Over Act — passed in a 220-210 party-line vote.
The measure, which stretches two pages, would terminate the COVID-19 public health emergency on the day it is enacted. The Trump administration implemented the declaration in January 2020 and it has remained in place since.
The bill, however, is unlikely to move in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
House Republicans revealed last week that the legislation would hit the floor on Tuesday. On Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the vote, the Biden administration announced that the COVID-19 public health emergency would end on May 11, setting an expiration date for the declaration that has been extended 12 times since it was first implemented.
The administration also said it would end the COVID-19 national emergency on May 11.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) argued in a statement that the immediate repeal of the public health emergency — as mandated in the GOP bill — would have “highly significant impacts on our nation’s health system and government operations.”
One area of concern for the administration is Title 42, the Trump-era policy that allows border officials to turn away asylum seekers because of concerns regarding public health. If the public health emergency were to end, Title 42 would expire, according to the administration.
“The Administration supports an orderly, predictable wind-down of Title 42, with sufficient time to put alternative policies in place. But if H.R. 382 becomes law and the Title 42 restrictions end precipitously, Congress will effectively be requiring the Administration to allow thousands of migrants per day into the country immediately without the necessary policies in place,” the OMB wrote on Tuesday.
Republicans, however, have argued otherwise, and decided to go ahead with their bill on Tuesday, contending the public health emergency should come to a close immediately, citing President Biden’s comments from September that said “the pandemic is over.”
The president later walked back those remarks, saying “it basically is not where it was.”
“President Biden has taken too long to act on his statement last September that the pandemic is over, which is why I am moving forward with my bill to end the COVID-19 public health emergency and finally restore checks and balances between Congress and the executive branch,” Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), the lead sponsor of the bill, said during debate on the House floor.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said the bill would “abruptly and irresponsibly end the COVID-19 public health emergency virtually overnight.”
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