CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that multiple Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the resolution.
The Republican-controlled House on Wednesday passed a resolution that would immediately end the COVID-19 national emergency first declared in March 2020, brushing aside the Biden administration’s announcement that the declaration would expire in May.
The joint resolution cleared the House in a 229-197 vote. Eleven Democrats voted with Republicans in supporting the measure: Reps. Angie Craig (Minn.), Don Davis (N.C.), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Jared Golden (Maine), Susie Lee (Nevada), Jared Moskowitz (Fla.), Chris Pappas (N.H.), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.), Pat Ryan (N.Y.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.).
The measure, which spans just over one page, would terminate the COVID-19 national emergency once enacted. It is not, however, expected to move in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. The Biden administration also came out against the measure.
House leaders announced on Friday that the resolution would come to the floor this week, teeing up a vote on the measure. But on Monday, the Biden administration announced the COVID-19 national emergency would be terminated on May 11 — putting itself on a collision course with the House GOP majority.
It was initially set to end on March 1, but the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said that date would be pushed by roughly two months. The administration also said the COVID-19 public health emergency, initially set to end on April 11, would expire on May 11.
The OMB in a statement argued that abruptly ending the emergency declaration and public health emergency “would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans.”
Republicans still decided to plow ahead with their measure on Wednesday, arguing the emergency declaration must come to an end sooner.
“At this point, there’s no longer a need for the declaration to utilize extraordinary authorities provided under the [National Emergencies Act] and it seems that the White House agrees with this too, but thinks we need to wait until May 11. That logic and math just doesn’t seem right to me,” Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said during debate on the House floor.
A number of Republican lawmakers pointed to Biden’s comments from September when he said “the pandemic is over” as reason why the emergency declaration should come to an end immediately. The president later walked back those remarks, acknowledging that he had been criticized and saying “but it basically is not where it was.”
Democrats, however, cited Biden’s plan to end the national emergency on May 11 in voicing opposition to the measure.
“With these complex issues still facing business, local leaders and the American people, it would be harmful and irresponsible to force a premature end to the flexibility offered by the presidential emergency declaration from March 2020,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) said on the House floor after noting statistics of COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
“President Biden has no intention of using these emergency powers forever. We know that because he announced his intention to end the COVID-19 national emergency on May 11. This May deadline provides time to develop a strategic and a thoughtful plan regarding the termination of these authorities. There’s no need for Congress to act now before the president acts on this issue. Forcing an end of the emergency declaration without regard to the consequences is short-sighted and wrong,” he added.
The vote to end the emergency declaration followed a vote by the House on Tuesday to end the COVID-19 public health emergency. The bill cleared the chamber in a party-line vote, 220-210.
Former President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the spread of COVID-19 on March 13, 2020, a move that allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to mobilize personnel to support state and local agencies as they worked to combat the virus. The move also allowed FEMA to access billions of dollars.
Trump had issued a notice to extend the national emergency in January 2021, and President Biden did the same in February 2022. The declaration remains in effect unless the president ends it, Congress passes a joint resolution to do so or if the president does not issue an annual extension.
— Updated at 8:43 p.m.