House Republicans Taking up Series of Bills Aimed to Declare End to Covid-19 Pandemic
Washington Bureau -Alex Cameron - February 1, 2023 6:39 am
U.S. Capitol Washington
The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is taking up a series of bills this week aimed at quickly declaring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, canceling remaining vaccine mandates and getting government workers back in their offices full time.
Right now, the country remains under the national and public health emergencies originally declared by President Donald Trump in 2020 and renewed by President Biden several times since. Republicans want those terminated immediately.
“This week, House Republicans will pass a bill that will force the federal government to acknowledge what the American people already know,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said, “the pandemic is over.”
The Oklahoma delegation is in full agreement, noting that even the president has said the same.
“September of this last year, President Biden, out of his own mouth, he said the pandemic is over,” Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK2) said in an interview Tuesday, “and so we’re going to complete that.”
In an interview for 60 Minutes last fall, the president said that, but with a qualification.
“The pandemic is over—we still have a problem with Covid,” Biden told Scott Pelley.
That ongoing ‘problem’ with COVID-19 — about 500 deaths a day still — is one reason the president and Democrats said health care providers and insurers need advanced warning — at least 60 days — to prepare for the emergency declarations being lifted.
“We want to make sure that the vaccine remains accessible to people,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) told reporters. “We want to make sure that testing is available through insurance programs.
The administration says ending the declarations without giving hospitals time to adjust would lead to “disruptions in care and payment delays, and many facilities around the country will experience revenue losses.”
Asked about the GOP legislation, President Biden said in a statement he would end the COVID-19 emergencies on May 11, eliciting more criticism from Republicans.
“Mr. President, if you know it’s the right thing to do, don’t wait until May,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) said. “Let’s open our country back up again.”
Another bill slated for consideration would end the vaccine mandate for health care workers, while another would force federal agencies to go back to pre-pandemic workplace requirements.
Oklahoma’s Josh Brecheen said it’s time.
“The pandemic came with increased costs,” Brecheen said. “If it’s over with, then, let’s end the mandates, let’s save taxpayer resources.”