Schumer warns of ‘Republican anti-vaccine shutdown’

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters
Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday warned that Congress is facing a “Republican anti-vaccine shutdown” because “a few lone holdouts” are raising objections to a deal to fund the government until Feb. 18.

Schumer announced on the Senate floor the “good news” that he had reached an agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other key players on a short-term funding measure.

But he warned a shutdown is still possible because of disgruntled conservatives.

“Unfortunately, it seems Republican dysfunction could be a roadblock to averting an unnecessary and dangerous government shutdown,” he said. “Democrats and most Republicans, including the Republican leader, have said they don’t want to see a Republican shutdown. We hope cooler heads will prevail.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations panel, signed off on the deal, but a small group of Senate conservatives are threatening to stall the measure unless they get a vote on an amendment to defund President Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), one of the conservatives threatening to slow-walk the funding measure, said he wants the amendment to be set at a simple-majority threshold so that it has a chance of passing in case Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) or another Democrat votes for it.

“I think it would have to be 50,” Marshall told reporters after a Senate Republican lunch on Wednesday.

“Is Sen. Schumer willing to shut down the economy over this?” he asked, referring to the vaccine mandate.

Such amendments are often subject to 60-vote majorities, as Senate rules require 60 votes for clearing procedural hurdles. 

Marshall told reporters Thursday morning that “shutting down the government is worth saving the jobs in Kansas.”

Schumer, however, showed little sign of giving in to what he called “a few lone holdouts.”

“All that’s left are a few lone holdouts raising objections that are doomed to fail and which can be debated elsewhere. There’s no reason we should have a Republican shutdown. I have worked with the Republican leader on an agreement that will avoid one,” he said.

Pelosi on Thursday dismissed the demands of Republican conservatives to add language to defund the vaccine mandate to the continuing resolution.

“It is yet again a double sense of irresponsibility. First of all they’d shut down government and then they’d shut down science,” she said.

McConnell, meanwhile, predicted on Thursday morning that a shutdown would be avoided.

The GOP leader told Fox News that insisting that language to defund Biden’s vaccine mandate be part of a short-term government funding measure threatened to “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.

Jordain Carney contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:03 p.m. 

Tags Chuck Schumer Joe Biden Joe Manchin Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Richard Shelby Roger Marshall Rosa DeLauro Shutdown

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