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Montana senators vote to block vaccine mandate for bigger businesses

Yet measure likely won't succeed
Posted at 12:21 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 10:12:43-05

HELENA — With Democratic Sen. Jon Tester joining all 50 Republicans and one other Democrat, the U.S. Senate voted 52-48 for a resolution blocking the Biden administration’s rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to have their workers vaccinated against COVID-19.

Tester said while he “strongly urges” every eligible Montanan to get vaccinated against COVID-19, he believes the rule requiring larger employers to get their workers vaccinated, or face testing, will harm businesses in Montana.

“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 in a statement before the vote. “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 and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., were the only Democrats who supported the measure.

However, the measure is unlikely to succeed. It now goes to the Democratic-controlled House, where it will face opposition. President Biden also has promised to veto the resolution, should it reach his desk.

Montana’s other senator, Republican Steve Daines, helped introduce the measure and has been a vocal supporter of GOP efforts to block COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the federal level. He’s also a co-sponsor of a separate bill to stop the Biden administration’s mandate that federal workers and employees of federal contractors be vaccinated against the disease.

“While I’m pro-vaccine, I’m strongly anti-mandate,” Daines said after the vote Wednesday. “President Biden’s overreaching COVID-19 vaccine mandates are a threat to Montana small businesses and workers. … I will not stop fighting until all of Biden’s mandates that are hurting our small businesses and workers are blocked.”

The resolution passed Wednesday by the Senate would block the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule that requires employees of larger companies to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19.

The Biden administration also has issued rules that require federal employees, employees of most health-care facilities, and employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

All of these mandates have been challenged in court, and federal courts have blocked them temporarily while their legality is determined.