Conservative lawmakers are mad the stopgap funding bill won't defund COVID-19 safety requirements.
A total of 212 House Republicans voted against a bipartisan agreement on Thursday to avert a federal government shutdown. The far-right House Freedom Caucus said a shutdown was needed to stop COVID-19 safety rules.
"We all have a responsibility to make sure that the government function," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters before the vote.
But several House Republicans aligned with the Freedom Caucus, a coalition of many of the most conservative members of the House Republican Conference, disagreed. For weeks, they have argued that because President Joe Biden's administration wants to require individuals working for businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or get tested weekly for COVID-19, Congress should defund the entire executive branch.
"No Member of Congress exercising their authority to control the 'power of the purse' under Article I of the Constitution of the United States should vote to fund an Executive Branch that is requiring unconstitutional vaccine mandates on American citizens in the private sector, or foolishly and wrongheadedly mandating the COVID-19 vaccination of government personnel," they wrote in a Nov. 16 letter.
With the current continuing resolution set to expire Friday, they preferred to leave hundreds of thousands of public servants furloughed without pay — right before the holidays.
"Any government spending bill that continues funding the unconstitutional vaccine mandate is intolerable," Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs argued last month. "As members of Congress we have the power of the purse – it's time we start to use it to protect the livelihoods of the American people."
In a video backing the shutdown on Thursday, Virginia Rep. Bob Good argued that stopping COVID-19 safety efforts is "the number one issue in the country right now."
Biden's vaccine mandates are unpopular among Republicans in Congress but widely supported by the American people. A November Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 55% of registered voters favor "requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing," while 40% opposed doing so.
But Biden's vaccine mandates are currently on hold anyway, pending federal court challenges.
Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued the effort to hold the federal government hostage to anti-vaccine demands is a terrible idea.
"I don't think shutting down the government over this issue is going to get an outcome," he told Fox News on Thursday. "It would only create chaos and uncertainty, so I don't think that's the best vehicle to get this job done."
The bill now goes to the Senate, where a handful of Senate Republicans are threatening to delay action beyond Friday if they do not get an opportunity to ban vaccine requirements first.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Thursday that a brief shutdown was possible because of "a few lone holdouts" who could block unanimous consent for a speedy vote and force a "Republican anti-vaccine shutdown."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.