The Republican-led House voted Wednesday to block the requirement that foreign travelers have proof of COVID vaccination to fly into the United States.
Seven Democrats joined with the GOP majority to pass the legislation 227-201, sending the bill to the Democrat-led Senate where it faces long odds.
Still, the vote represents a triumph for Republicans who oppose the rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which stipulate adult visitors who seek to enter the United States by air need to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding a flight to enter the country.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who introduced the bill, argued the CDC requirement is baffling because immigrants are crossing the southern border without being governed by such regulations. “Where’s the logic in that?” he said.
The Democrats’ basic argument against my bill to end the COVID-19 mandate on international air visitors is this: Congress should defer to bureaucrats because “science is hard” and Democrats aren’t qualified to vote on laws affecting basic human rights. pic.twitter.com/T30MelBhu2
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) February 8, 2023
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said Republicans are prioritizing “politics over science” and warned unvaccinated individuals could bring new, dangerous variants into the country.
Republicans are bringing their second bill in as many weeks to the House floor today that questions the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and undermines our public health agencies. I’m leading the opposition to this dangerous bill. pic.twitter.com/INb0Zeqmrg
— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) February 8, 2023
The federal government is expected to let the coronavirus public health emergency expire in May.
Pallone acknowledged policy-change discussions are warranted, but accused Republicans of rushing partisan legislation forward without up-to-date input from public health officials. To that end, he took issue with a clause in the bill that blocks “any successor or subsequent order” from the CDC requiring foreigners traveling by air to show proof of COVID–19 vaccination as a condition on entering the United States.
More than 1 million deaths in the United States have been attributed to COVID-19 since it first emerged in late 2019. While rates are far below the peaks during the height of the pandemic, the CDC reports weekly deaths attributed to COVID hovering between 2,500 and 4,400 since the beginning of this year.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden talked about the United States emerging from the grip of a years-long pandemic. “And today, COVID no longer controls our lives,” Biden said.