The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would end the national Covid-19 emergency declared by then-President Donald Trump on March 13, 2020.
The final vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan, 68-23. The joint resolution, which cleared the House earlier this year, now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.
The vote comes on the heels of two other successful efforts led by Republicans in approving legislation rescinding Biden administration policies.
A White House official said in a statement to CNN that while the President “strongly opposes” this bill, the administration is already winding down the emergency by May 11, the date previously announced for the end of the authority.
Still, the official noted, if the Senate passed the measure and it heads to Biden’s desk, “he will sign it, and the administration will continue working with agencies to wind down the national emergency with as much notice as possible to Americans who could potentially be impacted.”
The White House said in January that Biden “strongly opposes” the GOP resolution to end the Covid-19 emergency, according to its statement of administration policy, but did not threaten a veto.
While the lack of an explicit veto threat left the possibility of Biden signing the measure a clear, if not likely, option, Biden’s ultimate decision to sign the bill marked another moment where House Democrats have privately voiced frustration that the lack of clarity – or outright messaging mishap – from the White House left lawmakers in a lurch.
House Democrats largely voted against the bill when it was brought to the floor in February except for 11 Democrats who joined Republicans in support. A separate White House official noted that the Senate vote comes after several weeks when the Biden administration has had time to accelerate its wind-down efforts – and just a little over a month before they’d announced the emergency would end.
But it also comes after the administration drew blowback from House Democrats after sending what lawmakers viewed as mixed signals over how the president planned to respond to a Republican-led resolution that would block a controversial Washington, DC, crime bill, which opponents criticized as weak on crime. The president ultimately did not veto the measure.
The measure was able to succeed in the Senate by a simple majority through the Congressional Review Act, which allows a vote to repeal regulations from the executive branch without breaking a filibuster at a 60-vote threshold that is required for most legislation in the chamber.