McConnell predicts there will be no shutdown
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Thursday predicted there would not be a government shutdown, pouring cold water on a push by some conservatives to hold up a stopgap funding bill unless they get a vote on defunding President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for large employers.
McConnell, during an interview with Fox News, warned that linking a demand to defund the mandate to government funding legislation would “create chaos and uncertainty.”
“I don’t think shutting down the government over this issue is going to get an outcome. It would only create chaos and uncertainty, so I don’t think that’s the best vehicle to get this job done,” he said.
Asked about the potential for a shutdown, McConnell added: “We’re not going to shut the government down.”
McConnell’s comments come as Senate Republicans clashed Wednesday over a push by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) to use the government funding bill to defund Biden’s vaccine mandate.
Lee, in a statement to Playbook, warned that he wouldn’t help speed up consideration of a short-term government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, without dealing with the vaccine mandate.
“It’s not unreasonable for my Democratic colleagues to delay enforcement of the mandates for at least the length of the continuing resolution,” he said.
The House Freedom Caucus also called on McConnell to use all of the tools at his disposal to deny “timely passage” for government funding legislation in the upper chamber over the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates.
But the bid by Marshall and Lee frustrated several GOP senators, who said that while they were opposed to Biden’s mandate they didn’t want to shut down the government. Marshall has indicated that he would be willing to accept an amendment vote, with a simple majority threshold to be added to the government funding bill.
Congress has until the end of Friday to pass a government funding bill and avert a government shutdown.
Top members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees announced on Thursday morning that they had reached a deal on a short-term funding deal to keep the government open through Feb. 18.
Because of the Senate’s rules and the time crunch, any one senator could push the chamber past the Friday deadline to avoid a shutdown.
McConnell’s comments on Thursday come after GOP senators say that he listened to the debate during Wednesday’s party lunch but didn’t weigh in.
McConnell, during the Fox News interview, instead pointed to ongoing court battles and a separate vote the Senate is expected to take next week on Biden’s mandate for businesses under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) as a route that Republicans should take instead of the government funding bill.
“I think there’s good news. Multiple courts have pushed the pause button on these government vaccine mandates,” McConnell said.
He added that “next week we’re going to have a vote on the vaccine mandate, prohibiting that … I think it has a decent chance of passing the Senate.”