House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a failure to keep the government open would be the result of the Senate Republicans taking an anti-vaccination stance during a Thursday morning press conference.
“We’re not going for their anti-vaxxing, so if you think that’s how we’re going to keep [the] government open, forget that,” Pelosi said.
Some Senate Republicans are threatening to vote down a stopgap government funding bill unless it strips enforcement provisions from the White House’s vaccine mandate for larger employers.
“I think this is the fight — this is where we have the most leverage actually to accomplish stopping the mandate,” Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., told the New York Times this week. “I think that folks back home want to know how hard we’re fighting for them, that the jobs back home are as important as keeping the federal government open.”
The House of Representatives came to a bipartisan agreement on Thursday to vote to keep the government open through mid-February, after the previous stopgap vote in September extended the funding through Dec. 3. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the government would stay open but was urged by members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus to do whatever it takes to strip out the vaccine mandate.
“How do they explain to the public that they’re shutting down [the] government because they don’t want people to get vaccinated?” Pelosi said Thursday of Senate Republicans. “Why don’t you ask them? This is so silly that we have people who are anti-science, anti-vaccination saying they’re going to shut down [the] government over that.”
“We will get it done and we’ll get it done in a timely fashion,” she said, adding, “We anticipate that the Senate will pass the legislation.”
Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he would allow the bill to keep the government open to pass but first wanted a vote on his amendment to defund the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses.
“I want the members of this body to go on record on whether they support funding in this bill President Biden’s vaccine mandate,” Lee said. “The American people have a right to know through our votes where we stand.”
In September, Biden ordered companies with 100 workers or more to require vaccinations or weekly testing, although that has been put on hold by court rulings after conservative politicians and trade groups sued.
The spread of the more contagious new Omicron variant of the coronavirus ahead of the winter months has increased urgency around COVID-19. Biden said Monday that the plan was to continue the fight against the virus “not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.” According to tracking by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 73 percent of Americans are already vaccinated.
“Unfortunately it seems Republican dysfunction could be a roadblock to averting an unnecessary and dangerous shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor Thursday. “If there is a shutdown, it will be a Republican, anti-vaccine shutdown.”