Although President Joe Biden made news this week by announcing his intention to declare an end to the COVID-19 emergency in May, House Republicans beat him to the punch with a declaration on Tuesday.
In a vote that narrowly passed along party lines, GOP lawmakers advanced the Pandemic Is Over Act with the intention of curtailing the expanded government mandates and restrictions implemented in connection with the public health emergency declared about three years ago.
The Democratic-led Senate is expected to vote the bill down, but its passage in the House gives Republicans an opportunity to share their opposition to what they see as an extended period of big-government overreach.
Yesterday, @POTUS announced an end to COVID emergency declarations in May — this gives us five months to prepare. Today, the House voted on a bill that would end these declarations as soon as it's signed into law. The "Pandemic is Over Act" is shortsighted and irresponsible. pic.twitter.com/TYtQViiD2F
— Rep. David Trone (@RepDavidTrone) January 31, 2023
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) denounced the “authoritarian power grab” in a statement extolling the perceived benefits of the GOP-backed proposal.
She asserted that lawmakers in her party “are committed to a future that is built on freedom, and today we are righting the wrong that two years of authoritarian lockdowns and mandates have forced on the American people.”
The bill was spearheaded by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), who referenced Biden’s declaration in an interview last year that the “pandemic is over.”
Despite that assertion, Guthrie said that the president “just authorized the 12th extension of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” adding that officially ending that designation is “long overdue” and Biden needs to “relinquish the emergency powers that he just renewed again.”
With more than three months until the Biden administration’s curtailment of the emergency goes into effect, Guthrie echoed the sentiment of others in his party in denouncing the president’s slow action on the matter.
“President Biden has taken too long to act on his statement last September that the pandemic is over, which is why I am moving forward with my bill to end the COVID-19 public health emergency and finally restore checks and balances between Congress and the executive branch,” he said from the House floor in defense of his proposal.
Democrats spoke out against the measure, including Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who said that it would “abruptly and irresponsibly end the COVID-19 public health emergency virtually overnight.”