The House votes to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for international travelers

February 9, 2023

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a Republican bill repealing the requirement that most foreign travelers be immunized against COVID-19.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), was approved by a vote of 227 to 201, according to a report by The Washington Examiner.

It would rescind an order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requiring international air travelers who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents to provide proof of vaccination to enter the United States, with limited exceptions, a move that the travel industry has said would help boost spring and summer travel.

It would also prevent future COVID-19 vaccine mandates for foreign travelers from being implemented. The bill is unlikely to be approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

What Lawmakers Have To Say

"It is long past due to end this mandate," said Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), chairman of the Health Subcommittee for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Wednesday.

“Doing so will align the United States with the rest of North America’s COVID-19 vaccine policy for people coming into the country and recognize COVID-19 is an endemic — rather than a pandemic," Guthrie added.

Last June, the Biden administration repealed a requirement that all foreign visitors arriving in the country by air present a negative COVID-19 test, which had been in effect since early 2021.

However, the administration reinstated the testing requirement for passengers two years and older flying to the United States from China in December, citing an increase in cases on the Chinese mainland.

Two amendments to the bill were approved by the House: one by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) that would require the CDC to report to Congress on the number of travelers denied entry under the policy, and one by Rep. John Rose (R-TN) that clarified the bill would not affect the existing pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement for air travelers arriving from China.

Rejected Amendments

Three other amendments were rejected, including one from Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) that would have clarified the CDC's authority to mandate vaccination requirements for other diseases for non-citizens in the future.

The travel industry has been lobbying the Biden administration to repeal the vaccination requirement for foreign visitors.

“We have long supported the removal of this requirement and see no reason to wait until the May expiration of the public health emergency — particularly as potential visitors are planning spring and summer travel," said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association.

"Every day this policy remains in place encourages some travelers to avoid the U.S., costing us valuable visitor spending and delaying our efforts to reignite inbound travel," Barnes added.

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