Democrats fume after Biden breaks with party on COVID-19 emergency

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, celebrating Greek Independence Day. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh/AP

Democrats fume after Biden breaks with party on COVID-19 emergency

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House Democrats are lashing out against President Joe Biden after he signaled he would sign a GOP-led bill to end the COVID-19 national emergency despite pressing party lawmakers to oppose the measure when it was introduced earlier this year.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Wednesday to lift the national emergency declaration, with dozens of Democrats joining Republicans in backing the measure after being told Biden would not veto the legislation. The decision to change course angered House Democrats, who said Biden’s reversal caught them off guard.

SENATE VOTES TO END COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY AFTER BIDEN SIGNALS HE WON’T VETO

“It’s frustrating,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI). “This is a problem. And, you know, we’ve got to have some conversations because this — they’ve got to do better.”

The House first passed a resolution ending the COVID-19 emergency on Feb. 1, with 197 Democrats voting against the measure at the Biden administration’s request. At the time, the White House opposed the bill because it “would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system.”

Instead, Biden said he would block the measure and unilaterally lift the emergency declaration on May 11.

The president later reversed course, with the White House confirming on Wednesday that although Biden still opposes the measure, he will sign it when it comes to his desk, according to Axios. 

However, Democrats said their frustration wasn’t rooted in the decision itself but rather in Biden’s lack of communication about his plans.

“Clearly we’re going to need a better line of communication,” one Democrat told the Hill. “You should talk to some of the frontlines; the frontlines are the ones whose heads explode.”

The sudden about-face comes after a similar policy reversal occurred earlier this month when Biden angered House Democrats with his decision not to veto a Republican-led bill to overturn the revised criminal code being implemented in Washington, D.C. That decision frustrated party members who had already voted against the measure, with several accusing the president of walking back on his previous pledges.

The Senate approved the measure to lift the COVID-19 emergency declaration with a 68-23 vote, which is set to take effect once signed by Biden.

The emergency declaration was first issued in January 2020 and has been continually extended in 90-day increments since then. It’s not clear when the Biden administration intends to end the declaration, although the Department of Health and Human Services has pledged to notify states of its expiration at least 60 days in advance.

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When the public health emergency is lifted, it will bring several policy changes to a number of areas, such as insurance markets and treatment approvals.

The emergency authorization allowed vaccines, testing, and treatments to be offered for free to the public throughout the pandemic. Additionally, the mandate declaration required states to offer continuous enrollment for Medicaid and other public health insurance programs for low-income people.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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