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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

US ends pandemic emergency

The White House has deferred to Congress and set its Covid-19 powers aside

President Joe Biden on Monday signed a measure ending the Covid-19 pandemic emergency in the US. Though he originally planned to extend the emergency through May 11, Biden ended up signing the Republican-proposed law that Congress had approved over the objections of many of his own Democrats.

The White House released a one-sentence statement about Biden’s signature around 6pm local time, indicating that the president had agreed with House Joint Resolution 7.

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Drafted by Congressman Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, the bill was approved by the House of Representatives in February (229-197), and by the Senate at the end of March (68-23).

Biden’s Democrats had argued that ending the emergency would “create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the healthcare system,” but a handful ended up voting in favor of the GOP-proposed bill in the House, and about half in the Senate.

As of Monday evening, it was unclear what effect ending the emergency would have on two major, controversial US government policies. Ahead of the 2022 midterm election, Biden had invoked the pandemic powers to justify a plan to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student debt per borrower. He also attempted to end the Title 42 policy established under the pandemic, which mandated speedy deportation of people crossing the US border illegally.

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The Republican opposition has challenged both policies in court, insisting on keeping Title 42 while questioning the constitutionality of the student debt plan.

The emergency was originally declared on March 18, 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. Over the course of three years, more than 1.1 million American deaths would be attributed to the virus.