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U.S. Senate votes against private sector vaccine mandate, House passage unlikely

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Dan McCaleb | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Senate Wednesday night sent the Biden administration a message: Congress' upper chamber does not support the president's vaccine mandate on private businesses.

With two Democratic senators joining all 50 Republicans, the Senate voted 52-48 to repeal President Joe Biden's executive mandate requiring that private-sector employers with 100 or more workers ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing. Businesses that didn't follow the directive were to face stiff fines.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Jon Tester, D-Montana, joined Republicans in rebuking the mandate.

While the measure, introduced by Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, is unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, federal courts already have halted Biden's private-sector and other vaccine mandates, saying they amount to executive overreach.

"We've seen two consistent patterns in the past few months: the Biden Administration announcing extraordinarily aggressive new mandates intruding into the private decisions of businesses and citizens, and courts striking them down as illegal,” Daniel Suhr, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, which has represented clients challenging Biden's vaccine mandates, said before the Senate vote.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans shot down the private mandate last month, citing "grave" constitutional concerns.

“The Mandate threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individual recipients put to a choice between their job(s) and their jab(s)," the court wrote.

Other federal courts also have halted Biden's vaccine mandates on federal contractors and most U.S. health care workers.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said the White House would appeal the courts' decisions all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Psaki said Tuesday that the president would veto any repeal if it landed on his desk.

"We certainly hope the Senate, Congress, will stand up to the anti-vaccine and testing crowd," she said. "We're going to continue to work to implement these. If it comes to the president's desk, he will veto it."