States Newsroom: Montana’s Jon Tester to vote with U.S. Senate GOP to undo Biden vaccine rule

by Laura Olson

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana is one of at least two Democrats who are expected to join every Senate Republican in a vote Wednesday night opposing President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate on private employers.

In a written statement late Tuesday, Tester said that he’s heard from concerned constituents in his state about that pending requirement – which would direct employers with at least 100 employees to either ensure their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or that they undergo weekly testing.

“Over the past few months, I’ve repeatedly heard concerns from Montana’s small business and community leaders about the negative effect the private business vaccine mandate will have on their bottom lines and our state’s economy,” Tester said.

“That’s why I intend to join a bipartisan majority of my colleagues in defending Montana jobs and small businesses against these burdensome regulations.”

Tester added that he “strongly” urges all eligible Montanans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The support from Tester and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is expected to give Senate Republicans enough votes to pass the resolution seeking to undo Biden’s vaccine mandate, which is set to kick in Jan. 4.

The proposal would then go to the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, where all 212 Republican legislators have cosponsored a related resolution from Pennsylvania Rep. Fred Keller to nullify the vaccine mandate.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Biden will veto the resolution if it reaches his desk.

Senate Republicans are challenging the vaccine requirement under the Congressional Review Act, which can be used by Congress to overturn certain federal agency regulations. The vote under that act cannot be filibustered, so only a simple majority is needed.

The president’s proposed vaccine requirements also have faced a slew of challenges in the courts.

A related mandate requiring millions of health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana as a lawsuit moves forward. A federal judge in Georgia also temporarily blocked across the nation a mandate set to go into effect for federal contractors next month.

The Biden administration released a statement Tuesday evening saying the president “strongly opposes” the Senate resolution to undo his vaccine requirement.

“At a time when COVID is on the rise, a new variant is on the loose, and more Americans are choosing to be vaccinated, it makes no sense for Congress to reverse this much-needed protection of our workforce,” according to the administration policy statement.

“It puts our recovery in danger, and a vote for this resolution risks a return to shutdowns, layoffs, and closures that result from allowing COVID to spread more easily in the workplace.”