A cadre of GOP House and Senate lawmakers say they are planning to force a government shutdown later this week over President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Republicans Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah are pitching lawmakers within their respective chambers to block the short-term funding measure needed to keep the government afloat past Friday.
The lawmakers plan to object to any legislation averting a government shutdown unless Democrats agree to defund enforcement efforts for the White House’s vaccine mandate for workers at large and mid-sized U.S. businesses.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to bring up the stop-gap funding measure as early as Wednesday. Despite the efforts of Mr. Roy and other Republicans, the legislation appears headed to passage given that Democrats narrowly control the chamber.
Within the 50-50 Senate, the situation is more tenuous. To avert a government shutdown at least 10 Republican senators will have to back the measure to overcome a likely filibuster.
Mr. Lee, who is up for reelection next year, has not announced whether he will lead a filibuster against the bill or only offer an amendment to block funding from going to enforce the vaccine mandate. Requests to his office were not immediately returned.
“The Senate GOP has a choice,” said Mr. Roy, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “Fund a government that mandates Americans get injected against their will — or don’t. We choose not to fund that government.”
If Republicans were to succeed and strip funding to enforce the administration’s vaccine mandate, Mr. Biden would be likely to veto the bill.
The White House did not return requests for comment on this story.
Earlier this year, Mr. Biden announced plans to issue new regulations requiring private companies with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccinations against COVID-19. Administration officials argue the mandate will ensure that more than 100 million Americans across federal agencies, large businesses and the health care sector get vaccinated.
Republicans have called the move an “overreach” and are waging legal challenges to prevent its implementation. Most GOP lawmakers warn that the mandate will result in mass firings because the penalties for companies in contravention are significant, running upwards of $13,600-per-violation.
Hopes that the courts will strike down the mandate were buoyed on Tuesday when two separate federal judges blocked its implementation for federal contractors and health care workers at hospitals funded by taxpayers.
Some Republicans say that waiting for the courts to strike down the mandate will take too long, especially since the economic livelihoods of Americans are at stake. Instead, they say Congress should defund enforcement efforts starting with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is writing the regulations to implement the mandate.
“The most important thing Republicans can do is to stop the funding of vaccine mandates,” said GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia. “Republicans voting for funding of OSHA will be voting to fund communist tactics used against the American people.”
Despite the push, any effort to shut down the government faces long odds in the Senate, where past shutdowns have proven politically unpopular.
“There’s no appetite. Nor should there be on either side of the aisle,” said Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican. “I predict that the government will not shut down.”
Health, The New York Today