Speed Reads

Defund the Vaccine

Conservative Senate Republicans reportedly plan to force a government shutdown over vaccine rules

Funding for much of the federal government runs out at midnight on Friday — and conservative Senate Republicans, backed by their counterparts in the House, are "privately plotting to force a government shutdown" as part of "an effort to defund the Biden administration's vaccine mandate on the private sector," Politico's Playbook reports, citing multiple GOP sources. Democrats are scrambling to get agreement from enough Republicans to fund the government at roughly current levels through early 2022.

"Because of the tight schedule — and Senate rules that require unanimous consent to move quickly — the senators believe they'll be able to drag out the process well past midnight Friday," Politico reports. If they succeed, "the government will likely shut down for several days — even if appropriators strike a bipartisan agreement to extend funding by the end of today."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that "we won't shut down" and "nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown," but it would only take one Republican, theoretically, to slow things up enough to trigger a shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) certainly didn't appear convinced — he argued Tuesday that "if Republicans choose obstruction, there will be a shutdown entirely because of their own dysfunction." 

"I'm sure we would all like to simplify the process for resolving the [continuing resolution], but I can't facilitate that without addressing the vaccine mandates," Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told Playbook. Other Republicans have proposed forcing a vote on stripping funds for President Biden's vaccine requirement for larger businesses, currently tied up in court, or trying to hold up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

"Since Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress, some conservatives think that they can get Democrats to cave out of fear of being blamed," Politico reports. "Other Republicans acknowledged to us that this is probably wishful thinking, especially because the party making the demands in past shutdowns shouldered the bulk of the blowback."