Senate Republicans clash over government shutdown strategy

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(The Hill) – Senate Republicans on Wednesday battled over a proposal floated by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) to block a short-term government funding deal unless they get a vote on an amendment to stop the Biden administration from implementing its vaccine mandate for large employers.

Republican lawmakers described the meeting as contentious as Lee and Marshall refused to back down from their threat to drag out consideration of the government funding bill to use as leverage to get Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to agree to a vote on their amendment.

“There was a robust discussion,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) after the weekly GOP Steering Committee lunch, noting that Lee didn’t back down despite pushback from the GOP conference. “It was a lively discussion.”

“He was not relenting and looks like he thinks that possibly Schumer would accommodate a vote on it,” Braun said of Lee’s argument to the caucus that Republicans could pressure Democrats to take a tough vote to defund Biden’s vaccine mandate.

But many Senate Republicans are skeptical of the idea. They fear that they could get blamed for a shutdown if things spiral out of control and point out that in any case the Senate will be voting next week on a resolution to nullify Biden’s employer vaccine mandate under the Congressional Review Act.

“There was not full agreement, that’s for sure,” said Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) after the lunch.

“I think shutdowns almost never work out very well,” he added.

Marshall said after the lunch that he will insist on a vote on an amendment to defund Biden’s mandate set at a 50-vote threshold before agreeing to speed up the procedural time for considering the stop-gap government funding measure.

“It would have to be 50,” he said, adding that he would not accept an amendment set at a 60-vote threshold.

“This should be about, ‘Is Sen. Schumer willing to shut down the economy over this?’” he said. “This is a chance to correct a wrong. We can correct the wrong which was that the mandate [was] not necessary.”

But Braun and other Republicans say forcing a showdown over the vaccine by threatening a short government shutdown isn’t necessary or practical because the Senate is guaranteed to vote next week on a resolution that requires only 50 votes to nullify Biden’s mandate under the Congressional Review Act.

“My point is we’re going to get the vote on CRA next week anyway with none of the political collateral damage,” he said. 

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