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: Biden calls for unity as he rolls out winter COVID plan, but pushes back on Republican maneuvers on vaccine mandate

President Joe Biden on Thursday called for unity as his administration rolled out a plan for fighting COVID-19 during the winter, but he also pushed back on Republican opposition to his vaccine mandate for large employers.

“While my existing federal vaccination requirements are being reviewed by the courts, this plan does not expand or add to those mandates,” Biden said, during a brief speech at the National Institutes of Health headquarters in Bethesda, Md.

It’s “a plan that all Americans hopefully can rally around, and it should get bipartisan support, in my humble opinion. It should unite us, not continue to separate us,” he added.

Biden responded to news that some GOP lawmakers have plotted to force a partial government shutdown in an effort to defund his administration’s vaccine mandate on the private sector.

“Some of my friends on the other team are arguing that if I don’t commit that there’ll never be any more mandates, they’re gonna let us default. In the neighborhood I come from in Claymont, they’d look at me and say, ‘Go figure,’” the president said, referring to his Delaware roots.

Biden later told reporters that he doesn’t expect government shutdown “unless somebody decides to be totally erratic.”

The administration’s winter COVID plan, which comes as the omicron variant of the coronavirus sparks concerns, includes an expansion for at-home testing in the U.S. and tighter COVID testing timelines for travelers entering the country.

There’s also a new campaign to encourage vaccinated people to get booster shots, as well as an effort to launch hundreds of family vaccination clinics across the country that would offer first shots for kids, boosters for adults and more.

“Now as we move into the winter and face the challenges of this new variant, this is a moment we can put the divisiveness behind us, I hope,” Biden said. “This is a moment we can do what we haven’t been able to do enough of through this whole pandemic — get the nation to come together, unite the nation in a common purpose to fight this virus, to protect one another, to protect our economic recovery.”

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