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House conservatives press government shutdown threat over vaccine mandates

WASHINGTON — The conservative House Freedom Caucus is urging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to delay passage of a spending bill needed by Friday to prevent a government shutdown unless it prohibits funding for the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates.

In a letter to McConnell on Wednesday, the Freedom Caucus said the House is voting later in the day on the spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, “without ending any of President Biden’s very damaging, un-American, and in the worst cases, unlawful vaccine mandates.”

The group said that Senate Republicans have “important leverage” against the mandates because Democrats will need GOP votes to advance the spending measure by Friday night.

“We therefore write to request that you use all procedural tools at your disposal to deny timely passage of the CR unless it prohibits funding — in all respects — for the vaccine mandates and enforcement thereof,” they wrote.

The conservative caucus is essentially threatening a potential shutdown to push back against the vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden, which have been tied up by courts.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a vocal member of the Freedom Caucus, questioned Wednesday on Fox News whether Republicans are “going to stand up and say that not one single dollar should be used to fund government that is telling people that they must get a vaccine, a mandatory vaccine, or they’re gonna lose their job.”

He continued, “The president doesn’t have the power to do this. And where is Congress? Congress needs to man up, stand up, and fight for the American people. And that means don’t fund a government that is tyrannically forcing people to get a vaccine that they don’t wanna get.”

McConnell, however, made it clear Tuesday that he doesn’t want a shutdown. ​​

“We won’t shut down,” he told reporters. “I think we’ll get there, and certainly nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown.”

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., spearheaded a letter signed by 10 other GOP senators in early November that said they would “not support — and will use all means at our disposal to oppose — legislation that funds or in any way enables the enforcement of President Biden’s employer vaccine mandate,” including a continuing resolution, unless the latter contains language “protecting Americans from this action.”

One of the signatories, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday that Republicans should use every tool at their disposal to block the mandates.

“There’s a frequent mantra that those on the left have employed: Your body, your choice,” he said. “Well, it happens to be right. You should have the choice of the medical procedures that you choose to engage on your body.”

When asked if he would hold up the continuing resolution over the mandate language, Cruz said, “I think we should use every tool we have to protect people’s rights, and the vaccine mandates are illegal. They’re abusive and they’re hurting this country. It is wrong.”

On Tuesday, congressional leaders were scrambling to avert a partial government shutdown by the end of the week. Aides and lawmakers said Democrats were coalescing around a short-term bill that would keep the government funded through sometime in January.

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