Right-wing House members demand government shutdown to end COVID safety rules

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The House Freedom Caucus is pushing another anti-vaccine message as the current government funding resolution is set to expire on Dec. 3

The far-right House Freedom Caucus called for a government shutdown on Tuesday as a way to block President Joe Biden's COVID-19 safety rules.

Biden's administration announced in September that it would require COVID-19 vaccines for most federal employees and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would require individuals working for businesses with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or get tested weekly. The OSHA rule is currently on hold while federal courts consider challenges to its constitutionality.

In a letter addressed to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the group — which includes many of the most conservative members of the House Republican Conference — said the Biden administration's "executive orders and directives mandating COVID-19 vaccination under threat of retribution" are harmful and that it should thus lose all funding.

"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 argued.

The caucus, which does make its membership public, vowed that it would "not vote for a continuing resolution, or any other government funding legislation, while any federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates remain in place."

Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), and Chip Roy (R-TX) each tweeted out their support for the shutdown idea on Wednesday.

Medical experts say vaccine requirements are an effective way to ensure public health and curb the coronavirus' spread.

But Republicans have opposed it as "tyrannical" and are pushing to overturn the requirements — both through legislation and through court challenges.

Congress passed a stop-gap funding bill in September to avert a partial shutdown of the federal government. That agreement expires on Dec. 3, meaning another bill will be necessary by then in order to keep the government running.

If the government shuts down, it likely would not be able to enforce COVID-19 safety rules — or perform most of its other vital functions.

The Freedom Caucus' announcement that they will try to block that comes as the group's newly elected chair — Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) — just tested positive for COVID-19 and as cases are creeping up again nationally.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.