Conservative Republicans are reportedly planning to force a government shutdown to protest President Joe Biden’s push to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in large companies.
Far-right wing GOP senators say they will object to considering any bipartisan stopgap funding measure to delay its passage until after a deadline to keep the government running past this Friday, Politico reported Wednesday.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he won’t agree to the unanimous consent needed to move any funding measure forward quickly unless the White House agrees to suspend the vaccine mandate, a completely unrelated issue.
“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,” Lee said in a statement.
If Lee and a handful of fellow extreme conservatives stick to their guns, they could block passage of the bill for several days, forcing the government to start shutting down over the weekend and the beginning of next week.
The shutdown threat comes just hours after GOP Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed that there wouldn’t be a government shutdown.
He suggested that he had Republicans lined up to support the fast-track measure to keep the government open.
“Nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown,” McConnell said Tuesday.
Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on the other hand, warned that Republicans might try to use procedural tools to hold up the must-pass measure.
“To avoid a needless shutdown, Republicans will have to cooperate and approve the government funding legislation without delay,” he told reporters. “If Republicans choose obstruction, there will be a shutdown entirely because of their own dysfunction.”
Republicans, especially far-right conservatives like Lee, believe the vaccine mandate is deeply unpopular and even a quixotic battle against it will dramatize their fight and give Democrats a black eye.
But the public in the past has blamed government shutdowns on whichever party is perceived to have instigated them, which in this case would be the GOP.
“Some (Republicans) even want to even shut down the government, probably because they think somehow creating chaos, which they’re masters of, will hurt President Biden,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said. “It’s not gonna work.”