Senate votes to end Covid public health emergency, Biden threatens to veto action

The Senate voted 62-36 on Tuesday to end the emergency declaration nearly three years after it was declared. It is currently unclear whether the House would be taking up a similar measure.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

Following a vote on Tuesday by the Senate to end the public health emergency declaration in the United States, President Biden has threatened to veto congressional efforts to end this declaration. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Senate voted 62-36 on Tuesday to end the emergency declaration nearly three years after it was declared. It is currently unclear whether the House would be taking up a similar measure.

The Office of Management and Budget said though that President Biden has treated to veto and Congress-passed efforts to end this declaration that end up on his desk. 

This comes after the Biden administration is poised to extend the declaration once again to April of 2023, after officials did not inform as required at 60-days out that the emergency declaration would be ending on January 11, 2023 as previously planned.

The OMB said that ending the declaration would weaken the government’s ability to respond to new Covid-19 surges.

"Preserving our ability to respond is more important than ever as we head into the winter, when respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19 typically spread more easily," the statement said. "Strengthened by the ongoing declaration of national emergency, the federal response to Covid-19 continues to save lives, improve health outcomes, and support the American economy."

Biden is reportedly planning to ask Congress for an additional $10 billion in funding for the ongoing public health emergency.

The motion was brought to the floor by Sen Roger Marshall,  who called for the vote shortly after Biden had declared in a 60 Minutes interview that "the pandemic is over."

Speaking from the Senate floor on Tuesday, Marshall said that the declaration should be ended because of waning Covid cases, low hospitalization rates, and lower mortality rates than seen earlier in the pandemic.

Marshall said that the emergency declaration was giving the Biden administration a way “to supersize government powers."

Health experts are pointing towards another winter surge in cases, reflecting a similar trend seen over the winter with the emergence of the omicron variant.

The emergency status, enacted in March of 2020 by former President Donald Trump, gives the government access to additional executive powers under the National Emergencies Act. These powers include suspending federal student loan repayment, being able to close ports of entry, and extending customs deadlines. 

"Under federal law, Congress has the power to ask for periodic votes to terminate that status," the Wall Street Journal reported.


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