House Passes Last-Minute Funding Bill To Avert Shutdown But Senate Conservatives May Still Kill It Over Vaccine Mandates

Topline

With a potential government shutdown looming after Friday night, the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution Thursday that would keep the government running through February, but the bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where a group of conservative Republicans is threatening to force a shutdown if Democrats don\’t move to defund recent vaccine mandates imposed by President Joe Biden.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) talks to reporters on December 2.


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Key Facts

Just hours after its release, the short-term continuing resolution passed the House in a near-party-line vote of 221 to 212, with all Democrats and only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), voting for approval.

The bill would extend federal funding from December 3 to February 18, thereby preventing a weekend shutdown and giving lawmakers more than two months to approve a full-year budget, but the bill includes no provision to defund vaccine mandates.

The continuing resolution now heads to the Senate, where at least two GOP lawmakers have pledged to withhold their votes without the vaccine mandate provision, even if it means prolonging the procedural process past the Friday night deadline.

As House lawmakers rushed to pass the bill Thursday, one of those conservatives, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), said on the chamber floor he would stand by his commitment to \not support, grant consent to, pass or expedite\ a measure that supports or in any way funds Biden\’s vaccine mandates.

Several times on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed a government shutdown won\’t happen, but Biden seemed less sure when asked by reporters, saying \I don\’t believe that will happen.. unless somebody decides to be totally erratic.\

Though it\’s unclear how long a potential shutdown could last, it’s possible at least one of the senators necessary for an objection could delay a streamlined resolution and trigger a slew of procedural measures that force a shutdown through at least Sunday, one Democratic staffer told Politico.

Key Background

Congress failed to approve a spending measure by the end of the fiscal year, and increasingly in recent weeks, a small number of conservatives have used the looming deadline as leverage in a bid to end Biden\’s vaccine mandates. Last month, fifteen Republican Senators signed a letter blasting the president\’s “cruel campaign to punish unvaccinated Americans” and pledging to reject any legislation—including a continuing resolution—that funds or enables enforcement of the mandates. The movement picked up momentum this week, when the House Freedom Caucus asked McConnell to “use all procedural tools” at his disposal to deny the timely passage of a short-term continuing resolution unless it prohibits funding “in all respects” for the mandates.

Chief Critic

\I recognize these vaccines are protecting Americans from the harms of Covid-19 but also that the government has no business, no authority and no justification to make millions of Americans second class, unemployable pariahs even if the federal government did have that authority, which it doesn\’t,\ Lee said Thursday. 

Big Number

100 million. That\’s roughly how many Americans are covered under Biden\’s vaccine mandates, which apply to healthcare workers, federal employees and contractors. The White House says the orders would increase vaccination rates and protect workers, but in addition to political backlash, they have faced setbacks in the courts. Most recently, a judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the mandates for workers at Medicare- or- Medicaid-funded healthcare facilities.

Further Reading

\’Total Chaos\’: Conservatives Threaten Government Shutdown In Two Days Over Biden\’s Vaccine Mandates (Forbes)

Lawmakers Race To Avert Government Shutdown This Weekend—Expect Higher Inflation And Millions Of Furloughs If They Don\’t (Forbes)