Pelosi hammers ‘anti-science, anti-vaccination’ Republicans for threatening shutdown

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday ripped into the Republican lawmakers threatening a government shutdown over President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, accusing them of promoting a dual crisis of the economy and public health.

“It is, yet again, a double sense of irresponsibility: First of all, they’d shut down government, and then they’d shut down science,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

A spirited Pelosi then rejected the suggestion that Democrats share responsibility for the impasse, arguing that the burden should fall on Republicans to justify their blockade over the vaccine requirements.

“How do they explain to the public that they’re shutting down government because they don’t want people to get vaccinated?” she said. 

“This is so silly that we have people who are anti-science, anti-vaccination saying they’re going to shut down government over that. And you’re asking me what’s our message? Our message is that we have to respect governance, and we have to respect science, and that’s what we are doing and we will pass this legislation,” she added.

“We’re not going to go for their anti-vaxxing, OK? So if you think that’s how we’re going to keep government open, forget that.”

The comments came shortly after bipartisan leaders in both chambers struck an eleventh-hour deal on a stopgap bill to fund the government through Feb. 18. Without congressional action, large parts of the government are scheduled to shut down after midnight on Friday. 

With Democrats controlling the House, where just a simple majority is needed to move legislation, the stopgap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, is expected to move quickly through the lower chamber on Thursday afternoon. 

Deeper complications await in the Senate, however, where the conservatives, led by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), have vowed to block the measure unless it includes language explicitly preventing the government from enforcing Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employers. 

The opposition is significant in the 50-50 Senate, where the filibuster, combined with other arcane rules, empower members of the minority party to stretch a debate for days, if desired. In the case of the continuing resolution, that would push the debate into next week — and cause the government to close down in the meantime.

There were signs on Thursday, however, that such a scenario will likely be avoided. Key Senate Republicans, including Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, have endorsed the short-term funding proposal.

The conservative opponents are signaling an agreement to vote on a vaccine amendment, as long as it needs only 51 votes to pass — a doomed venture that will nonetheless give them political cover to argue they fought the good fight. 

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose party took the brunt of the blame for a 16-day shutdown in 2013, has all but guaranteed there will be no repeat of history this month.

“We’re not going to shut the government down,” McConnell told Fox News Thursday morning. 

Pelosi, speaking to reporters shortly afterward, offered the same prediction.

“We all have a responsible to make sure that the government functions. I don’t think that the Republicans in the Senate want to shut down government. I don’t know that they would even have the votes to do so,” she said. 

“We will get it done, and we will get it done in a timely fashion.”

Tags Joe Biden Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Richard Shelby Roger Marshall

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