“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 added, "and I continue to urge every West Virginian to get vaccinated themselves."
Because all 50 Republicans are pushing the bid, Manchin's vote gives Senate Republicans enough support to pass a decision to block 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 pushed the resolution earlier this year under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to bring back the mandate, with which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration orders businesses with at least 100 employees to demand 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 regular majority vote. The resolution is expected to come to the floor for a vote next week and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who is heading the effort, told The Hill on Thursday night that he is in discussions with several 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 statement that he is supporting the stand-alone GOP bid 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 add to a short-term government funding bill.
Manchin implied in his statement that he is against the amendment because if it had been added to the government funding bill it would have jeopardized a shutdown. Congress had until the end of Friday to enact 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.