The federal government's funding is set to expire on Friday.
Some Republican members of Congress want to force a government shutdown to block President Joe Biden's proposed COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates for U.S. employers — while other GOP lawmakers have warned that forcing a shutdown could backfire on them.
On Wednesday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) told Politico he would not allow a quick vote on a continuing resolution to keep the government running unless the White House takes out its requirement that many American workers either get vaccinated against the virus or get tested weekly.
"I'm sure we would all like to simplify the process for resolving the CR, but I can't facilitate that without addressing the vaccine mandates," Lee told Politico.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) told the outlet he hoped House and Senate Republicans would "use all procedural tools to deny the continuing resolution passage Friday night — unless they restrict use of those funds for vaccine mandates."
Roy and other members of the House Freedom Caucus have been pushing this idea for weeks.
In a Nov. 16 letter, they argued that no one in Congress "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."
While Democrats have a majority in both the House and the Senate, the GOP Senate minority has the power to block most legislation by filibuster and to delay quick action on even noncontroversial proposals. With the current continuing resolution set to expire on Friday, even a single Senate Republican could thus force a shutdown.
But other Republicans have been warning that doing so would be a bad idea, from both a political standpoint and a public policy one. Vaccine mandates have been shown to be highly effective at reducing the spread of the virus.
Polling has shown broad public support for vaccine mandates. A November Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 55% of registered voters support "requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly is worried that his party would be punished by voters for forcing a government shutdown. He told reporters Tuesday that "certainly nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown."
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) also opposed the idea while accusing Democrats of "risking a government shutdown and worsening their inflated economy."
In September, before the current continuing resolution was passed, several House Republicans warned a government shutdown would be dangerous.
"Our federal government is currently bracing for a complete shutdown without a backup plan," Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, tweeted at the time. "That means that Americans will go without government services and millions won't get a paycheck."
"This is a chaotic moment- adding a gov't shutdown would be both costly + incredibly disruptive to many key areas of our government, including paying our military," Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) tweeted in September.
If Republicans in Congress were to force a government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of public servants could be furloughed without pay right before the holidays.
More than 780,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus since last year.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.