Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Thursday night that he is supporting a GOP effort to nix President Biden’s vaccine mandate for larger businesses, which is expected to get a vote in the Senate next week.  

“Let me be clear, I do not support any government vaccine mandate on private businesses. That’s why I have cosponsored and will strongly support a bill to overturn the federal government vaccine mandate for private businesses,” Manchin said in a statement.  

“I have long said we should incentivize, not penalize, private employers whose responsibility it is to protect their employees from COVID-19,” he added.

“I have personally had both vaccine doses and a booster shot,” he went on, “and I continue to urge every West Virginian to get vaccinated themselves.”  

Because all 50 Republicans are supporting the effort, Manchin’s vote gives Senate Republicans enough support to pass a resolution to nix Biden’s vaccine mandate for larger employers. The resolution would still need to pass the House and, even then, would likely be vetoed by Biden.  

Republican senators introduced the resolution earlier this year under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the mandate, with which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration orders businesses with at least 100 employees to require their workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing by Jan. 4.  

Republicans are able to use the CRA to force a vote to nix Biden’s mandate at a simple majority vote. The resolution is expected to come to the floor for a vote next week and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who is leading the effort, told The Hill on Thursday night that he is in talks with a handful of additional Democratic senators.  

“I hope that more Democratic Senators and Representatives will follow Senator Manchin’s strong lead and stand up against this federal overreach that will wreak havoc on our recovering economy and trample on the rights of millions of Americans,” Braun said in a statement.  

Manchin’s announcement that he is supporting the stand-alone GOP effort to roll back Biden’s vaccine mandate comes after he voted against a GOP amendment to defund the mandate that a group of conservatives tried to attach to a short-term government funding bill.

Manchin suggested in his statement that he opposed the amendment because if it had been added to the government funding bill it would have risked a shutdown. Congress had until the end of Friday to pass the stopgap measure, which funds the government through mid-February.  

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the new Omicron variant emerges, I will not vote to shut down the government for purely political reasons. There is too much at stake for the American people,” he said.