A handful of conservative lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are "privately plotting" to force a government shutdown this week to pressure Democrats to defund the Biden administration's vaccine mandate on private employers, according to Politico.
The news outlet, citing multiple anonymous Republican sources, reported Tuesday that the lawmakers plan to stall the approval of a continuing resolution to fund the government into early 2022 unless Democrats agree to deny money to enforce the mandate.
Congress is set to consider the resolution — which currently includes money to fund the mandate — on Friday. But if the process gets dragged out past midnight, funding will officially expire.
President Joe Biden announced the sweeping vaccination mandate in September, instructing companies with more than 100 employees to require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The mandate was set to affect more than 80 million Americans.
However, backlash to the mandate was swift and sharp, as at least 27 states filed lawsuits challenging the order in court. Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration suspended the mandate for private employers in response to a federal court order.
Many Republicans in Congress have publicly decried the mandate as a massive overreach by the administration, and now it appears that at least some are willing to back their words up with action. Given the current 50-50 split in the Senate, Republicans would technically only need one objector to push past Friday's deadline.
“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,” one conservative lawmaker, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), told Politico in a statement.
“Given that federal courts across the country have raised serious issues with these mandates, it’s not unreasonable for my Democratic colleagues to delay enforcement of the mandates for at least the length of the continuing resolution," he added.
Politico said it remains unclear how many Republican senators will follow through with the shutdown threat, but noted that 15 signed on to a letter authored by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) in early November vowing to “use all means at our disposal” to stop the mandate's implementation.
Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus on Tuesday also reportedly voted to back their Senate colleagues by demanding that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy adopt a tougher stance against the resolution as written.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, downplayed the shutdown threat on Tuesday, saying as a matter of fact, “We won’t shut down” and that “nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown.”