Federal government funding is set to expire at the end of the week and, as per usual, Congress has launched a last-minute scramble in an attempt to pass a continuing resolution (CR) through the House and Senate to extend that funding into the next year.
There could be a big problem with the effort, though, as a number of GOP lawmakers from both chambers have threatened to block the effort and force a government shutdown unless funding for the implementation of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates is stripped out of the bill, the Washington Examiner reported.
That is a bold and potentially risky strategy for Republicans, as prior instances of parties making demands that force government shutdowns typically receive the blame and suffer political consequences from voters in the following election cycle.
However, given the strong opposition among the GOP base as well as independents against vaccine mandates — and the prospect of being rewarded if such mandates are ended — it is a calculated risk that some Republican legislators are willing to take.
Calls for a block
The House Freedom Caucus on Tuesday sent a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressing their objections to a House-passed CR that included funding in support of the implementation and enforcement of Biden’s federal vaccine mandates targeting private businesses, healthcare workers, federal employees and contractors, and members of the military, among others.
Noting that current government funding expires Friday night, the House conservatives pointed out that “the Senate Republican conference enjoys important leverage against those mandates.”
“We therefore write to request that you use all procedural tools at your disposal to deny timely passage of the CR unless it prohibits funding — in all respects — for the vaccine mandates and enforcement thereof,” the House Freedom Caucus concluded.
The Examiner noted that Leader McConnell, who generally stands opposed to the tactic of shutdown showdowns, is unlikely to go along with the plan, but it is unclear if he will be able to convince all of his fellow Senate Republicans to fall in line and support the CR that includes funding in support of the vaccine mandates.
According to Politico’s Playbook, there appears to be at least 15 Senate Republicans who have already signaled their support for using procedural tools, the threat of a shutdown, and lapsed funding to end Biden’s mandates.
In early November, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), and at least a dozen other Senate Republicans, sent a message to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), making essentially the same threat that was just echoed by the House Freedom Caucus.
Marshall advised Schumer that “we will not support — and will use all means at our disposal to oppose — legislation that funds or in any way enables the enforcement of President Biden’s employer vaccine mandate. Nor will we vote for or support cloture on any continuing resolution in the absence of language protecting Americans from this action.”
The Politico report noted that McConnell downplayed the chances of a shutdown happening while Schumer conceded that it was a possibility. Meanwhile, all it will really take is one GOP senator objecting to swift passage of the CR to derail the last-minute effort to fund the government for a few more months and avoid even a brief shutdown.