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Iowa Republican U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted Wednesday to pass a Senate resolution that would invalidate President Joe Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandates for private employers.
The resolution passed the evenly divided Senate by a bipartisan vote of 52-48, with help of two Democrats — Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Federal courts have temporarily blocked implementation of federal rules requiring federal contractors, health care workers and workers at businesses with at least 100 employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or face weekly testing. Unvaccinated workers would be required to wear a face mask on the job.
Still, the vote gave senators a chance to voice opposition to a policy that they say has sparked fears back home from businesses and from unvaccinated constituents who worry about losing their jobs should the rule go into effect, the Associated Press reported.
“I have always encouraged Iowans to get vaccinated. That protects themselves, but it also protects other people“ from the virus, Grassley said Wednesday during a weekly call with Iowa reporters ahead of the floor vote. "In particular, they ought to be concerned about their families. I’ve also said that if you have doubts about the vaccine, don't listen to politicians. Go to your doctor to get the best advice for you and your family. The Biden administration thinks it knows best, and apparently thinks that Americans can’t be trusted to make an informed decision for their own benefit.”
Grassley said the “heavy-handed” mandates “erode freedom and they also pose a significant threat to businesses” and workers, and are “the last thing we need during a worker shortage crisis.“
Lawmakers can invalidate certain federal agency regulations through a joint resolution approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, or passed over the president's veto by two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.
The Democratic-controlled U.S. House, however, is unlikely to take up the measure, which Biden is likely to veto.
The White House released a statement earlier this week stating that Biden’s advisers would recommend he veto the resolution in the unlikely event it makes it to his desk.
“The president wants to see Americans back on the job, and Americans back at work should not face risk from those who are not vaccinated and who refuse to be tested,” the White House said.
The move comes as the omicron variant quickly spreads through the U.S. and globally, and as Iowa continues to experience a surge in coronavirus cases leading to more people being treated in hospitals, higher numbers in intensive care and more deaths.
Ernst, in a statement, also decried the mandates and “burdensome testing requirements.”
“Iowans should make the decisions about their own health care — not the federal government — and President Biden’s heavy-handed federal mandate takes that freedom away from Iowans,” Ernst said. "I’m vaccinated, and I encourage others to get vaccinated, but Washington shouldn’t force this decision on hardworking Americans.“
Deaths in the United States stemming from COVID-19 are running close to 1,600 a day on average. The overall U.S. death toll less than two years into the pandemic could soon reach 800,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.