Biden will not veto the Republican-led bill to end the COVID emergency

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will not veto a Republican-led measure to amend the national COVID emergencyalthough he raised strong objections to it earlier this year to ensure the bill is on an easy path to becoming law.

It’s the second time in the new Congress the Biden administration has objection indicated to a Republican measure and got most Democrats in Congress to vote against it, only to soften their stance and eventually make the legislation law.

Just a few weeks ago, Biden stunned many other Democrats when he did that he refused a veto a Republican-led bill repealing a new criminal code for the District of Columbia, which he and others in the President’s party protested against, allowing the GOP’s tough push into local government to become law.

Republicans celebrated the turn of events Wednesday as a sign of their newfound influence in a divided Washington, while Democrats quietly complained that the Biden administration had changed their views.

But the White House stood firm, and the Senate gave final approval, 68-23, and sent the bill to Biden’s desk.

A White House official said as House Republicans first prepared to vote on the bill earlier this year, it would have lifted the national declaration of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic in February.

But now it’s getting much closer to the White House’s own plan to lift the national COVID emergency status on May 11.

The president still strongly opposes the legislation, said the official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the situation. But when that bill gets to Biden’s desk, he’ll sign it, the official said.

Before the vote, Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., one of the bill’s main sponsors, said he hoped “the rumors are true — that the President will finally sign this legislation.”

The legislation is a simple one-line measure stating that the national emergency declared on March 13, 2020 “is hereby ended”.

It stems from one of the more conservative Republicans in the House, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, and draws on Republican-led opposition to mask mandates, lockdowns and other precautions put in place to stem the spread of the virus during the pandemic. It was among the first bills presented by the new house to GOP earlier this year.

At the time, the government warned that the proposal would cause chaos. More than 197 Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against it.

“An abrupt end to the declarations of a state of emergency would create widespread chaos and uncertainty throughout the healthcare system — for states, for hospitals and physicians’ offices, and most importantly for tens of millions of Americans,” the government said in a formal administrative policy statement.

In the days leading up to the House vote, the Biden administration announced its own plan to lift emergency status on May 11, three years after the virus broke out.

The government’s announcement meant the federal coronavirus response would be treated as an endemic public health threat that could be managed by the authorities’ normal authorities, rather than pandemic status.

Just a few weeks ago, Biden signed another Republican-led bill that would nullify the District of Columbia Penal Code Revision. The administration had previously said it opposed the bill.

On Wednesday, Republicans in the House Oversight Committee voted in favour overturn a police reform package approved by the DC Council.


Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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