Senate conservatives could force the government to shut down for as long as a week to protest President Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
If conservatives led by Senate Republican Steering Committee Chairman Mike Lee (R-Utah) refuse to yield back procedural time on the floor, it could take as long as nine days to approve a stopgap spending measure that would keep the government funded into late January or February.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Wednesday that talks to fund the government are "making good progress" but warned that a small group of Senate GOP conservatives could block the stop-gap by throwing up procedural hurdles.
"We're making good progress on the CR. I hope a small group of Republicans don't choose obstruction and try to shut down the government," he said. "We need to come together and keep the government open."
Senate conservatives led by Lee are discussing using their leverage over the Senate schedule to demand that Democrats defund Biden's vaccine mandate on large employers.
If Democrats refuse, Republicans could drag consideration of the appropriations stop-gap for as long as nine days.
It would take a day for the House to pass the stop-gap and send it to the Senate and another day to place it on the Senate calendar.
A cloture motion to end a filibuster could be filed on the third day and a vote on cloture on the motion to proceed would take place on Day Five.
Lee and other conservatives could demand up to 30 hours to debate the motion to proceed, which would push the debate until Day Six.
It then would take another three days to file a cloture motion on the bill itself, vote on the cloture motion and then spend thirty hours of post-cloture debate time before holding a final up-or-down vote.
Eleven Senate Republicans signed a letter to Schumer earlier this month warning they will not support and "will use all means at our disposal to oppose" and legislation that funds or enables the enforcement of 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," they wrote. "The American people have gone through enough."
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), who led the Nov. 3 letter to Schumer, doubled down on the warning Wednesday.
"So as long as he makes sure we don't fund the unconstitutional mandate, we'll be okay with unanimous consent. So it's totally on his back," Marshall said, referring to Schumer.
Other Senate Republicans don't seem eager at all for a protracted standoff over the short-term government funding measure.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he's confident there won't be a shutdown.
"We won't shut down," he said. "Sen. Shelby is engaged in discussions about not only how long the CR should last but certain conditions, sort of bright lines that we've had in these measures forever. For example, the Hyde Amendment. I think we'll get there and certainly nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown."
Updated at 1:02 p.m.