The possibility of a government shutdown rose Wednesday after a group of conservative Republicans announced they want a vote to defund President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate before they will support a stopgap funding bill ahead of a Friday deadline.
Conservatives led by Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Roger Marshall (Kansas) are set to delay the funding measure for days, but other Republicans believe that could backfire on the party at a time when Biden’s popularity is flagging and his approval ratings are in the tank.
“Some Republican senators are privately 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 percent,” The Hill reported Thursday.
There is some speculation that the tactic could boomerang on Republicans in a similar way that using funding leverage to shut down the government about eight years ago to defund Obamacare appeared to backfire — and again, at a time when Biden’s numbers are at their lowest of his presidency.
The Hill reported that several Republicans believe causing a shutdown will be blamed on their part while shifting focus away from other issues such as rising prices for energy and consumer goods as well as the continuing supply chain crisis and Biden’s highly controversial social and climate spending measure known as “Build Back Better.”
Nevertheless, Lee and the others are leaving open the possibility of a shutdown.
“There was not full agreement, that’s for sure,” Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt of Missouri said following debate over the tactic and strategy during a GOP lunch Wednesday, The Hill added.
“I think shutdowns almost never work out very well,” Blunt, who is retiring next year, added.
A government shutdown will come to pass if Lee and his group lodge objections over requests to quicken the pace of floor procedure in order to allow the chamber to pass a government funding bill that comes from the House. In order to avoid a shutdown, Congress must collectively act prior to midnight on Friday.
The conservative group could hold up final passage of a funding bill for as long as nine days under current Senate rules, the outlet added.
Blunt told The Hill that conservatives were given the opportunity to force a shutdown by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) because they waited until right before the Dec. 3 deadline to move funding legislation. The measure was delayed due to discussions with Republicans regarding the length of time the stopgap measure should cover and if it would keep in place long-running policy riders.
“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.
Other Republican senators noted that the chamber is set to vote next week on a resolution aimed at nullifying Biden’s vaccine mandate per the Congressional Review Act, and that it will be better to fight that battle instead.
“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.) noted after Wednesday’s lunch. “Almost everybody there agrees with me.”
However, The Hill reported, Marshall argued that voters back home need to see that the party is doing everything it can to overturn Biden’s vaccine mandate. He also said Schumer has to allow consideration of an amendment to the funding bill that would bar the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from using taxpayer money to implement the mandate since Republicans have 50 votes in the 100-member chamber.
“I think it would have to be 50,” Marshall said of the vote threshold he is seeking to amend the funding bill. “Is Sen. Schumer willing to shut down the economy over this?”
Nevertheless, Schumer appears set to blame Republicans for any delay.
“Our Republican colleagues … can either work with us to move the process quickly through the chamber or they can engage in obstructive tactics that will make a government shutdown almost a certainty,” he said Wednesday.
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