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Tipsheet

Biden Announces Plan to End COVID-19 Emergency Declarations

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Even though Joe Biden declared America's "independence" from COVID-19 in July 2021 and has remarked a handful of times since then that the pandemic is "over," his administration still has not ended two national emergencies that were first declared nearly three years ago in March 2020. From "15 days to slow the spread" to more than three years of national and public health emergency declaration extensions, the White House has issued an end-date for both.

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On Monday, President Biden notified Congress that he would end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11. The Statement of Administrative Policy from the Biden administration explained that, while the declarations were set to expire on March 1 and April 11, he plans "to extend the emergency declarations to May 11, and then end both emergencies on that date."

That means a return to routine management of COVID-19 as an endemic disease without the extraordinary authorities that accompanied the national emergency declarations.

The letter from Biden's Office of Management and Budget was careful to clarify that "continuation of these emergency declarations until May 11 does not impose any restriction at all on individual conduct with regard to COVID-19" and would "not impose mask mandates or vaccine mandates" nor "restrict school or business operations" or "require the use of any medicines or tests in response to cases of COVID-19."

Biden, it seems, was forced to announce an end to the declarations under pressure from the new House Republican majority, according to The Associated Press:

Biden's announcement comes in a statement opposing resolutions being brought to the floor this week by House Republicans to bring the emergency to an immediate end. House Republicans are also gearing up to launch investigations on the federal government's response to COVID-19...

The emergencies have been repeatedly extended by Biden since he took office in January 2021, and are set to expire in the coming months. The White House said Biden plans to extend them both briefly to end on May 11. 

"An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors' offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans," the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a statement of administrative policy.

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Is there anything abrupt about ending the declarations some three years into the "emergency" that spurred them? 

The OMB letter also threatened Republican lawmakers that "the end of the public health emergency will end the Title 42 policy at the border," urging Congress to allow Biden to follow his plan to end the declarations on May 11, apparently because the White House needs more time to arrange an "orderly, predictable wind-down of Title 42, with sufficient time to put alternative policies in place."

But the situation is not a simple hostage scenario Biden's OMB portrayed. Public health emergency declarations fall under a provision of the Public Health Service Act — a separate law that does not deal with Title 42 of U.S. Code. What's more, the Biden administration did not address the public health emergency that it has repeatedly extended when it previously sought to lift Title 42.

To wit, Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) slammed the Biden administration for claiming that House GOP attempts to end the COVID emergency declarations would also end Title 42:

And why, after more than two years of creating chaos at the border, the Biden administration would expect anyone to believe they want to ensure security and keep illegal immigrants from surging into the country is anyone's guess. It's outright laughable, in fact. Still, OMB attempted to convince anyone reading its letter to suspend disbelief and think an earlier end to the COVID emergencies would mean "requiring the Administration to allow thousands of migrants per day into the country immediately without the necessary policies in place." It's absurd, yet somewhat predictable, for Biden to now use the border crisis he created as leverage to try and claim credit for "ending" the pandemic. 

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The Biden administration has not done anything to stop "thousands of migrants per day" from crossing illegally into the United States, nor have they demonstrated any sort of willingness to implement policies that would stop unlawful entry into the country. Their scrambling now is just more political theater from the administration of a man who campaigned on a promise to "shut down the virus" and then failed to do so — and Republicans are happy to call Biden out for it. 

This is a developing story and may be updated.

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