Republicans fear a gambit by conservative GOP senators to demand the end of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate in exchange for letting a stopgap government funding measure pass could wind up backfiring, The Hill reported.
Led by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., the group is pressing to hold up the government funding deal, called a continuing resolution — the deadline is Friday — a strategy also used to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act that backfired in 2013, The Hill noted.
According to the news outlet, some GOP senators are arguing that forcing a government shutdown would give Democrats a political lifeline at a time when Biden’s approval rating is hovering just above 40% — and would force a government shutdown likely to be blamed on the GOP.
"There was not full agreement, that’s for sure," Senate Republican Policy Committee chair Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said after debating the strategy Wednesday, The Hill reported.
"I think shutdowns almost never work out very well," he added.
The Hill notes the shutdown could happen if the conservative members object to requests to speed up floor procedures to allow the Senate to pass any government funding bill that comes over from the House, The Hill explained.
According to The Hill, the conservatives could delay final passage of a funding measure for up to nine days.
"Any time you drag this down to where you’re in the last 48 hours or so, it gives every member a lot of ability to object to expediting things," Blunt said.
Some GOP senators are also arguing they can fight the vaccine mandate more effectively in a vote next week on a resolution to nullify Biden’s executive order under the Congressional Review Act.
"My point is we’re going to get the vote on CRA next week anyway with none of the political collateral damage," Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said after the Wednesday meeting, The Hill reported. "Almost everybody there agrees with me."
But Marshall argued to colleagues they need to show to voters at home that they’re pulling out all the stops to defeat Biden’s vaccine mandate, The Hill reported. Marshall said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has to agree to allow consideration of an amendment with a 50-vote threshold to prohibit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from using taxpayer money to implement the vaccine mandate.
"I think it would have to be 50," Marshall said of the vote threshold he wants to amend the funding measure, The Hill reported. "Is Sen. Schumer willing to shut down the economy over this?"
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he’d let the government funding measure advance if it can be amended with 51 votes. "I think that would be a very good resolution," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday vowed "we won’t shut down," The Hill reported. However, he did not weigh in on the debate at the GOP lunch meeting.
"He ate his chicken," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said of McConnell’s reaction to the conservatives’ plan, The Hill reported.
On Wednesday, conservatives in the House were fully supportive of the Senate stonewalling government funding in order to sink the vaccine mandate.
The House Freedom Caucus called on McConnell to do everything he can to to deny "timely passage" of the Biden administration's spending bill unless it prohibits funding for vaccine mandates.
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