Congressional Republicans are planning to use an array of legislative tools, including the threat of a government shutdown, to challenge the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates, according to a report from Politico.
According to the report from Wednesday’s edition of “Politico Playbook,” Conservatives in the Senate GOP caucus are planning to object to the continuing resolution to fund the government through January 2022, unless Democrats agree to scrap funding for enforcement of the federal vaccine mandate. Because the Senate is running on an incredibly small clock – funding officially expires Friday – and because Senate rules require unanimous consent to move the bill forward at an expedited pace, conservative senators believe they can drag out debate past the expiration of funding.
“I’m sure we would all like to simplify the process for resolving the CR, but I can’t facilitate that without addressing the vaccine mandates,” Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee said in a statement to Politico. “Given that federal courts across the country have raised serious issues with these mandates, it’s not unreasonable for my Democratic colleagues to delay enforcement of the mandates for at least the length of the continuing resolution.”
A Senate Democratic leadership staffer told Politico that without a unanimous consent agreement, it would take at least five days to run the resolution through the legislative process, which would mean a shutdown lasting until at least Sunday, possibly into next week. There is a lot of uncertainty around the move, however. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the government would not shut down, and that “nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown.” However, a group of around 12 Republican senators, led by Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, signed a letter to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this month that said they “will use all means at our disposal to oppose” legislation that funds or facilitates the federal government’s vaccine mandate.
Some Republicans thought Democrats would shoulder the blame and bend to their demands out of political fear. Others, possibly including McConnell, believed that the move would backfire and hurt Republicans, as shutdowns usually only hurt the party making demands. The arguments from both sides were made at a Senate GOP lunch Tuesday, and were expected to be made again at another luncheon today, Politico reported.
Republicans in the House of Representatives backed the move. The conservative House Freedom Caucus voted Tuesday to put pressure on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to crack the whip on the party’s support for the resolution. The last funding extension garnered 34 Republican votes, Politico noted, as Republican leadership did not whip votes against it.
“There is leverage immediately in the Senate, and we think that House Republicans ought to be backing up any number of Senate Republicans … to use all procedural tools to deny the continuing resolution passage Friday night — unless they restrict use of those funds for vaccine mandates,” Freedom Caucus member and Texas Representative Chip Roy told Politico.
The senators’ move comes after a Senate candidate previously made the suggestion that Republicans should shut down the government until the vaccine mandate is struck down. Speaking at a GOP primary forum, Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance lambasted Republicans for caving to Biden on infrastructure spending and the debt limit while the administration “forc[es] a vaccine mandate down people’s throats.” “Instead of giving them a bipartisan flag to wave, we should shut down the government until the vaccine mandate ends,” Vance said.