House to Vote on Bill to End International Air Travel COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
February 4, 2023Politics
House to Vote on Bill to End International Air Travel COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Travelers arrive for flights at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., on Dec. 16, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The House of Representatives is set to vote next week on a bill that, if passed and signed into law, would remove the requirement for proof of a COVID-19 vaccine for non-U.S. citizens who seek to fly into the United States.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) separately confirmed Friday of the upcoming vote for HR 185.

“We are voting next week to end the vax mandate on legal foreign air travelers,” Massie, who introduced the measure on Jan. 9, announced on Twitter. “There’s never been a mandate on U.S. Representatives, Senators, or their staff, so how can we vote in good conscience to mandate it on others? We need to end this policy now.”

“The CDC’s unscientific mandate is separating too many people from their families and has been doing so for far too long. It needs to end,” he wrote in another post.

Responding to a query about whether the bill addresses land border crossings from Canada, Massie wrote: “Unfortunately it does not. I asked to add that to my bill as an amendment but the parliamentarians say it’s not germane, because the air mandate is based on CDC and the land mandate is promulgated by DHS.

“But, if we can pass this, there’s a strong case for passing that soon.”

The summary of HR 185 reads: “This bill nullifies the order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention titled Amended Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic and published on April 7, 2022.(The order restricts the entry of noncitizens who are not immigrants into the United States by air travel unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or otherwise attest that they will take public health measures to prevent the spread of the disease.)

“The bill also nullifies any successor or subsequent orders that require foreign persons traveling by air to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of entry and prohibits the use of federal funds to administer or enforce such a requirement.”

The U.S. Travel Association, a national nonprofit representing travel businesses, supports Massie’s proposed bill.

“We have long supported the removal of this requirement and see no reason to wait until the May expiration of the public health emergency—particularly as potential visitors are planning spring and summer travel,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs and policy.

Barnes is referring to the Biden administration’s plan to end the national COVID-19 emergency declarations on May 11.

“Every day this policy remains in place encourages some travelers to avoid the U.S., costing us valuable visitor spending and delaying our efforts to reignite inbound travel,” Barnes said in a statement.

“The U.S. is the only country that still has this requirement for international visitors when there is no longer any public health justification. We thank the bill’s sponsors for their efforts to remove this outdated, COVID-era policy and normalize inbound travel operations.”

The latest directive (pdf) from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) states that effective to at least April 10, aircraft operators must require each non-U.S., nonimmigrant citizen to present paper or digital documentation for “proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19″ before boarding a flight to the United States. There are some limited exceptions.

A “nonimmigrant” means not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa.

The Biden administration in June 2022 had dropped its requirement for non-U.S., nonimmigrant citizens entering the United States by air to test negative for COVID-19.

But it has since imposed new requirements for most travelers from China, Hong Kong, or Macau, to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the country—regardless of citizenship or vaccination status. Others who also need to test negative include those traveling from Seoul, Toronto, and Vancouver who were in China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the past 10 days.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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