Conservatives dig in as Senate struggles to get shutdown deal
Conservatives are digging in, urging their GOP colleagues to stay in town to vote for proposals to defund President Biden’s vaccine mandates as senators struggle to get a deal to quickly pass a bill to avert a government shutdown.
The problem for Democrats right now is math: Because more Democratic senators than GOP senators are absent, amendments from Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which are expected to get a vote before the final passage of the government funding bill, would currently pass and get added into the short-term bill.
Lee and Cruz are urging their GOP colleagues to stay in town.
“.@SenateGOP has a very real chance of defunding @POTUS’s remaining vaccine mandates IF every Republican stays for the vote,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) tweeted.
Cruz added that “NO REPUBLICAN SENATOR should leave town this afternoon.”
“Schumer is panicking right now because Dems WILL LOSE THE VOTE on my amendment & @SenMikeLee amendment to BLOCK BIDEN’s VACCINE MANDATES & BLOCK MANDATES ON KIDS. The only way Dems win the vote is if Rs skip town,” he tweeted.
Both amendments from Cruz and Lee are expected to only need a simple majority of those voting to be added into the continuing resolution (CR), that will fund the government through March 11. But any changes to the funding bill would force it to go back to the House, which is in the middle of a two-week break and where Democrats would likely balk at supporting a bill that hampered Biden’s vaccine rules.
During a vote the Senate held early Thursday afternoon, five senators were missing: Two Republicans, Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and three Democrats, Sens. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). Lujan recently had a stroke, while Feinstein and Kelly are dealing with family medical emergencies.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, floated the possibility that senators could just wait until enough GOP senators leave Washington, D.C. for the one-week recess that the math would balance out for the amendments to fail, saying that “natural attrition” could break the logjam.
“There’s the Munich Security Conference and those folks are leaving later this afternoon. So, you know, at some point it’ll ultimately resolve itself, if it isn’t resolved some other way,” he told reporters.
Asked if GOP leadership was asking members to stay in Washington, D.C, he added, “We don’t have a lot of control over that.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed that Democrats would stay in town, telling reporters that, “We’re not gonna leave. We’re not going to let a few outliers shut the government down.”
But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an ally of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.), appeared skeptical that banking on enough GOP senators to leave that Democrats have a working majority might not pan out.
“That’s what we’re hearing but I’m not sure that’s going to work either,” Cornyn said, adding that “we appear to be stuck.”