Biden vaccine mandate repeal fails as Democrats shrug at block

Eight senators, including Joe Manchin, had backed the measure to expand health access but the other five balked

The US Senate passed a Republican-led measure to repeal the Senate’s failed Biden vaccine mandate on Tuesday, with a vote of 60-39 in the closest victory for Republicans since their big electoral win last year.

The vote to eliminate the provision by Mike Pence came as part of a broader bill. That package also includes measures that would streamline the approval process for mobile devices and would take a step toward facilitating retirement plan modernization.

Sixteen Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, had voted with the majority to approve the second version of the bill after their party defeated a bill to scrap it a month ago. On Tuesday, just two Democratic senators opposed the measure to repeal the Biden measure.

“The fact that fewer Democrats voted today for repeal than voted against repeal a month ago shows Democrats are continuing to push the Republican agenda of fear and mistrust,” said Tom Davis, the former Republican congressman from Virginia who now heads the Government, Transactional and Financial Strategies practice at Covington & Burling.

Diana Golick, an obstetrician and mother of two, held a sign as she rallied outside of the US Capitol on Tuesday. Photograph: Eric Thayer/Reuters

Democrat leaders had hoped the measure would gain enough Democratic support to override a veto from President Donald Trump but a final tally on a parliamentary maneuver known as a budget reconciliation vote was still needed. Republicans needed 60 votes to get the procedure approved on Tuesday but only 40 voted yes.

Republicans are currently 50-49 but Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, one of the 52-year-old Pence’s closest allies in the Senate, was added to their ranks on Tuesday.

Despite support for ending the Biden provision, he did get an assist from two other Republicans. Susan Collins, Maine, who is not up for re-election until 2020, was the first of the five Republican senators to join with him.

Susan Collins breaks ranks with fellow GOP senators over Biden vaccine mandate Read more

A week after the June Senate vote, Collins and the three others in Democratic ranks released a statement saying they were “deeply disappointed” by “the irresponsible policy that could cause untold harm to young children”.

Chris Murphy, a Democrat who is one of the most vocal opponents of the rule, said a repeal vote was another “gigantic win” for his side.

“I hope people will now begin to listen to me and the voices of these parents and grandparents and pick up the courage to demand better,” he said.

The Biden provision was to require schools to offer school-based vaccinations to kids in the kindergarten-through-12th-grade age group without any religious or philosophical exemption. It was pushed by the Democratic senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, as a way to protect children from preventable disease.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday said the group of Democrats “took everything away” from Americans and said Republicans continue to “propose solutions to make the world a safer place”.

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