US Senate passes measure to strike down CMS mandate in token gesture

The Senate passed legislation March 2 aimed at halting the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for eligible healthcare workers participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Lawmakers passed the measure 49-44 along party lines, in a symbolic move under the Congressional Review Act by Republicans, according to The New York Times. Six Democrats were absent for the vote.

Although the measure passed in the Senate, it is unlikely to pass the House, the Times noted.

The White House, in a March 2 statement cited by the newspaper, said the measure "would expose patients to unnecessary risk," and that President Joe Biden would veto it if passed by Congress.

CMS' vaccination mandate, which the Supreme Court upheld Jan. 13, requires healthcare facilities to establish a policy ensuring eligible workers are fully vaccinated, with exemptions allowed based on religious beliefs or recognized medical conditions. 

"Today is a huge victory for all the healthcare workers who ran to the sound of the COVID battle as Senate Republicans joined forces taking us one step closer to invalidating President Biden's overreaching and harmful CMS vaccine mandate," Sen. Roger Marshall, MD, a Kansas Republican, said in a news release after the March 2 Senate vote. "These workers are the true heroes of the pandemic and deserve our best fight and utmost respect."

The vote came after CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure told The Washington Post her agency has not seen a mass exodus of medical staff leaving hospitals — one of the mandate's chief criticisms.

She told the newspaper, "We've been working with facilities, and the conversations have been extremely encouraging in terms of how much facilities understand the importance of the requirements."

Hospitals and health systems have been making efforts to comply with the CMS vaccination mandate. Some states have different deadlines for the rule than others based on the Supreme Court decision and a federal court decision that dismissed a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas. 

For a state-by-state breakdown of compliance deadlines, click here

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