WASHINGTON –– Members of the House voted Wednesday to end the vaccine mandate for travelers into the United States. Though the bill needs to pass the Senate to become law, it is one of a number of initiatives brought forward by the Republican-controlled House to end pandemic-era restrictions even though many are on their way out.
President Joe Biden declared last week that the COVID-19 national emergency would end on May 11 of this year. Still, the House voted on a number of pandemic-related initiatives to mandate American workers return to in-person work, to end the pandemic immediately and to end the federal vaccination mandate for health workers.
In a 227 to 201 vote, the House passed H.R. 185, which says travelers to the United States no longer need to be vaccinated. Republicans and Democrats were largely split down party lines over ending the vaccine mandate. Republicans argued that it is time to move past the pandemic and return to “normal.”
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) said the bill would end ” burdensome mandates for international travel in the United States.”
“Frankly, I can’t believe it’s still here,” Bilirakis added. “I talked to my constituents who have family that want to come to the United States, international travelers, and they can’t come because they don’t want to take the vaccine. And that’s their right.”
Other Democratic representatives warned against an end to the mandate, arguing that Congress should take direction from scientists when changing federal mandates relating to the virus.
“My friends on the other side of the aisle seem unconcerned about the threat of the COVID-19 virus and they’ve shown that consistently over the time of the pandemic,” Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that over 500 Americans are dying each day from COVID. I believe in science. I believe in specialists. I believe in doctors.”