Rules Committee Advances Bill to End Vaccine Requirement for Entering US

Joseph Lord
By Joseph Lord
February 6, 2023Politics
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Rules Committee Advances Bill to End Vaccine Requirement for Entering US
The exterior of the U.S. Capitol building in a file photo. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The House Rules Committee on Feb. 6 advanced a bill to end the requirement that foreign travelers must be vaccinated to enter the United States.

In an Oct. 25, 2021, proclamation, President Joe Biden announced a ban on entry to the United States for foreigners not vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, a ban which the administration said was a “science-based public health measure.”

Biden called specifically for a ban on unvaccinated “covered individuals”—non-citizens seeking to enter the country temporarily—being allowed entry by air travel.

In April 2022, the CDC announced “Amended Order Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID–19 Pandemic,” which put Biden’s rule into effect.

CDC-headquarters-1210839842-1200x714-e1652924486320
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta on April 23, 2020. (Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images)

H.R. 185, introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), is a brief bill.

“A BILL [to] terminate the requirement imposed by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for proof of COVID–19 vaccination for foreign travelers,” the top of the legislation reads.

The legislation would forbid federal agencies from using any congressionally-apportioned funds to enforce such a vaccination mandate on foreign travelers.

In addition to overruling the CDC’s April 2022 order, the bill would prohibit the imposition of any similar vaccination requirement for foreign travelers entering the United States in the future.

The committee advanced the resolution by a party-line 9-3 vote.

Three of the Democrats’ four members voted against advancing the measure; the other Democrat was absent during the vote. All nine of the committee’s Republicans voted to advance the measure.

Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) gaveled in the hearing and quickly gave his support to the measure, noting that it would put the United States in line with the other nations of the developed world, which impose no such requirement on travelers.

Rep. Tom Cole
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) during a hearing in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Dec. 18, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Later in the hearing, Massie concurred, saying the CDC rule was “out of step, [and] out of date with the rest of the world. Every other reasonable, free country in the world has dropped this provision.”

Massie noted that its not only free countries that have dropped these requirements—even otherwise totalitarian nations like Russia, China, and Iran impose no such restriction on travelers.

Then Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), in his comments, noted that COVID restrictions on foreigners legally entering the U.S. for travel are harsher than those imposed on illegal aliens.

Namely, Burgess relayed a conversation he had had during a visit to the border with Customs and Border Patrol agents. The agents told Burgess that unvaccinated illegal aliens are let into the country under the “catch and release” policy.

Burgess described vaccination as “purely voluntary” for illegal aliens entering the country.

Democrats, meanwhile, insisted that the bill would undercut “public health experts,” and called for authority to make such decisions to remain with the CDC.

‘Move Our Country Back to Normal’

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) provided testimony on the bill, which he said would help “to move our country back to normal.”

“Last week we had a couple bills dealing with COVID,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie here was referencing two COVID-19 bills passed on Jan. 31.

The first bill, introduced by Guthrie, would officially declare an end to the public health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic. The second bill would end the vaccine mandate for health care workers at institutions that receive federal funding.

Guthrie said that the bill being considered would be building on these other bills.

“H.R. 185 provides another opportunity to move our country back to normal,” Guthrie said.

“It is long past due to end this mandate.”

Public Health Experts

Democrats on the committee urged trust in “public health experts,” arguing that any other approach would limit options for responding to future variants of COVID-19.

Democrats argued that experts, rather than Congress, should ultimately have authority over the travel restrictions imposed on foreigners.

Massie’s bill would “tie [the] hands” of “public health experts,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said during testimony to the committee.

Rep. Frank Pallone
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) during the weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 08, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Pallone warned that the bill would have “detrimental implications.”

“This order was put in place to open the world back up again after so many harrowing months of crisis … and allow vaccinated travelers once again to return to our nation while also keeping citizens safe,” Pallone said, adding, “I’d think that was what we all want.”

Pallone called on Congress to “trust the public health experts,” saying they “know best how to keep Americans healthy and safe.”

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) struck the same tone when she referred to herself as a “strong supporter of public health expertise.” Like others in her party, Scanlon called for the decision to be left to the CDC.

In response to criticisms that the bill would limit the CDC’s ability to respond to future variants, Massie noted that the vaccines were already ineffective against past variants, including the delta and omicron variants.

“‘Variants of concern’ are called ‘variants of concern’ because the vaccine doesn’t work against them,” Massie quipped.

Massie Grills Pallone on Vaccine Safety, Effectiveness

During a particularly heated section of the hearing, Massie grilled Pallone on the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.

On various occasions, Democrats hurled charges of “conspiracy theories” at Republicans.

Pallone, during his testimony, said H.R. 185 puts “politics over science.” He said the bill was being passed based on “the political whims of the most ideologically extreme.”

At another point, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) spoke at length about “conspiracy theories,” submitting a New York Times article “debunking” criticisms of vaccines’ safety or effectiveness.

Massie shot back with a litany of studies and CDC statements about the vaccine, refuting the notion that all criticisms of the relatively untested vaccine are “conspiracy theories.”

Pallone has been outspoken in defense of vaccine mandates.

During the hearing, he argued on various occasions that the vaccine was safe and effective, both of which are contested claims.

Massie asked Pallone, “Is it true that the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna is known to increase the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, yes or no?”

Thomas Massie Feature Photo
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) arrives to a hearing in Washington, on Sept. 30, 2020. (Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images)

Available research shows these vaccines have been recorded to cause increased incidents of myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly in young men—who are otherwise not usually at risk for the relatively rare cardiac condition.

Pallone initially evaded the question.

Finally, pushed by Massie, Pallone responded that criticism of the COVID-19 vaccine “disturbs me a great deal.” He added, “500 people [are dying from COVID] everyday!”

Later, Massie pointed to another alarming sign about the COVID-19 vaccines, this time from the CDC itself. Specifically, Massie referenced a “safety signal” posted to the CDC’s website warning that people over 60 who took two COVID-19 booster shots may be at increased risk of stroke.

“You can wave it away and say ‘conspiracy theory,’ but this is all on the CDC website,” Massie said.

At another point during the exchange, Massie cited a study showing that the vaccine does not prevent transmission.

Pallone, in reply, accused Massie of trying to dissuade people from getting the vaccine. During a particularly heated portion of the exchange, Pallone asked Massie whether he was vaccinated.

Massie did not answer directly, instead saying that he believes it should be the right of an individual to determine whether or not to get vaccinated, and not the government through a mandate.

With the resolution’s advancement by the Rules Committee, it is now set to be taken up for a vote by the full House.

While it will likely face little trouble advancing through the lower chamber, where Republicans hold the majority, it will likely face a steeper challenge in the Senate. Democrats, who have largely endorsed Biden’s COVID policies, hold 51 seats in the upper chamber.

Like all legislation going through the Senate, the bill would need to win 60 votes—meaning the support of at least 11 Democrats—before it could come to the floor for a simple majority vote.

Even if it passed these hurdles, Biden would likely veto the bill.

From The Epoch Times

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