West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin came out against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large businesses late Thursday, saying he would vote against the measure when it likely comes up next week.
“Let me be clear, I do not support any government vaccine mandate on private businesses,” Manchin said in a statement. “That’s why I have cosponsored and will strongly support a bill to overturn the federal government vaccine mandate for private businesses.”
“I have long said we should incentivize, not penalize, private employers whose responsibility it is to protect their employees from COVID-19,” Manchin said, going on to strongly encourage West Virginians to get vaccinated and touting the shots’ safety and efficacy.
Manchin’s opposition to the mandate may give the measure enough votes to pass the 50-50 Senate, given that Republicans are unanimously against it. But even if it garnered enough support to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, Biden could still veto the block on his mandate if it lands on his desk.
The Republican effort to block the mandate, set to take effect on Jan. 4, is led by Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, who praised Manchin’s opposition Thursday.
“I hope that more Democratic Senators and Representatives will follow Senator Manchin’s strong lead and stand up against this federal overreach that will wreak havoc on our recovering economy and trample on the rights of millions of Americans,” Braun said in a statement.
Despite Manchin’s opposition to the vaccine mandate for large companies, he voted against an identical amendment tied to the stopgap funding bill that cleared Congress Thursday.
That amendment, however, could have risked a government shutdown if it had passed, which Manchin said was the reason for his opposition.
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the new Omicron variant emerges, I will not vote to shut down the government for purely political reasons,” Manchin said. “There is too much at stake for the American people.”
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