In a narrow vote Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to repeal President Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine or testing mandate on some private employers. Both of Connecticut’s senators opposed the repeal.
The resolution passed the evenly-divided chamber on a close 52 to 48 vote with two Democrats, West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin and Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester, joining all Republicans to support it. The bill’s fate in the Democratic-controlled House is uncertain and the White House has signaled that Biden would veto the measure if it reached his desk.
Still, during remarks from the floor, Sen. Chris Murphy called the Senate’s action Wednesday a victory for a campaign of misinformation against the vaccine.
“We understand the power of our words in this place,” Murphy said. “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. They know they have become an extension of those that are trying to convince Americans that the vaccine has a microchip in it, that the vaccine kills you.”
In a floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had been vaccinated and received a booster shot but called the requirement a government overreach.
“Washington Democrats have lashed themselves to a mast that is very simple: Unvaccinated people should be fired,” McConnell said. “That’s what they want. They don’t trust individuals, families, doctors, employers, and customers to sort things out for themselves.”
In a statement posted to his Twitter feed, Manchin said he supported vaccine mandates for military personnel and federal employees but not private companies.
“It is not the place of the federal government to tell private business owners how to protect their employees from COVID-19 and operate their businesses,” Manchin said. “We should incentivize, not penalize, private employers to encourage vaccination among their employees.”
During a Tuesday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the vaccine or testing requirement “quite reasonable” in the eyes of many Americans.
“If it comes to the President’s desk, he will veto it. And we’ve got a new variant, and cases are rising,” Psaki said. “The President has been clear we’ll use every tool to protect the American people, and we hope others will join us in that effort.”
During his floor remarks, Murphy dismissed the notion that the requirement amounted to a vaccine mandate. Rather, Biden had enacted a COVID testing mandate, Murphy said, vaccination was just a way out of the weekly testing requirement.
“A weekly test that is a little swab, swirled around your nostril, five or six times for 30 seconds. That is the requirement. That’s the cost. The sky-high, constitution-violating, unpatriotic cost the Republicans have been down here on the floor, railing against for a month,” Murphy said. “Apparently the cost of a nose-tickle is too great a cost to pay to save thousands and thousands of Americans from dying from a preventable pandemic.”