Joe Biden did the nation a service when he declared the pandemic “over” in a mid-September interview with “60 Minutes.” He didn’t really mean it, and his administration had no intention of pursuing the kind of course correction that his observation would have necessitated. Only a seismic shock will rattle the remaining foundations of the Covid regime. That may be precisely what’s coming.

For millions of Americans, the once ubiquitous daily reminders of the condensed and unsatisfying life we were all forced to lead at the height of the outbreak are harder and harder to come by. Where restrictions persist—and will continue to persist, as they are now untethered to any objective observations about the virus—are in settings dominated by those who were most beholden to mitigation protocols. Vaccination cards are still currency in parts of blue America. Masking in almost every medical setting, up to and including veterinary offices, is standard. Performative displays of hygiene theater contribute to a rise in “behavioral” maladies such as hypochondria, even if they have few other measurable effects on our environment. Colleges and universities maintain Covid-testing regimens that conflict with their education.

No single election cycle will wash all that away. But where Republicans in Congress can help the nation move on from the pandemic is in their capacity as the majority party in the House. They can force the federal government to relinquish its vice-like grip on Covid protocols that have long outlived their usefulness.

According to Axios, Republicans will attempt to strip the Biden administration of the authority Congress vested in the executive branch at the onset of this emergency in 2020. They will overturn the Covid vaccine mandate affecting the U.S. military, which has contributed, at least in part, to the failure of some of the services to meet recruiting goals and maintain readiness. They are likely to eliminate the pandemic-era privilege of “proxy voting” for lawmakers, a constitutionally dubious provision contributing to Congress’s transformation from a deliberative body into a stage upon which elected officials preen  for partisans. They will almost certainly attempt to terminate the national-emergency declaration around Covid that the Biden administration extended into next year (the first attempt, which passed a Democrat-controlled Senate in March, was never taken up by the House).

But that’s not all. While it may unsettle members of the public health establishment, the vanguard of the ascendant GOP doesn’t seem inclined to move on with reconciliation in the absence of truth. Republicans are reportedly set to launch investigations into the virus and how we responded to it. What were Covid-19’s true origins? Why did American schools stay shuttered longer than other industrialized nations? What happened to the trillions of dollars (which Democrats gallingly insist was insufficient) appropriated to combat this crisis? And what about the tens of billions of dollars pocketed by fraudsters.

Some of the GOP’s efforts to restore what one Republican aide called “normal” may not be wildly popular. A Republican majority in the House will reportedly “claw back leftover Covid aid” in state and federal coffers. If, however, Covid aid remains unspent, it is no longer Covid aid; it is a fungible dispensation that states have applied to priorities favored by pressure groups that would otherwise have to put their preferences to a more democratic test.

Republicans are keen on ensuring that programs such as expanded unemployment insurance and the 2021 Child Tax Credit do not become permanent. This will surely frustrate reformers on both ends of the political spectrum who want to see the federal government subsidize social contributions that do not generate an income. But if “normal” is the goal, “normal” also involves the restoration of price stability. But to the degree that spending in the pursuit of social engineering has contributed to voters’ apprehension, the political rewards on the other side of austerity will outweigh the aggravation of the natalist right and those progressives who have come to regard work as an assault on personal dignity.

Some of the GOP’s crusades against the permanence of the pandemic’s mitigation protocols will succeed. Others might not. But even the effort will be an unusually healthy exercise for the country. Congress granted the executive branch and its agencies extraordinary power during the pandemic, and that power will not accrete back to the legislative branch through entropy alone. Even if it would, we should expect the most powerful branch of government to jealously guard its authority.

Through lethargy or incompetence or a bit of both, Joe Biden has gifted Congress an opportunity to reassert itself. If that enterprise concludes, even in some small way, in the trimming of the imperial trappings with which the modern presidency is festooned, it will be a good thing. Indeed, it will be an expression of constitutional propriety that befits a representative republic, which is what Democrats insist the GOP is set on destroying. That will be a win for democracy, even if it has to be clawed from the hands of democracy’s self-styled defenders.

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