- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2022

A cadre of Senate Republicans are pledging to delay speedy consideration of a government funding bill unless Congress defunds President Biden’s vaccine mandate.

In a letter to colleagues Monday, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas argued that the mandate continues to affect countless Americans, even though a portion of it has been ruled unconstitutional for private employers.

“Millions of Americans are now free from this unwarranted federal invasion into healthcare decisions, but for how long,” the lawmakers wrote. “In addition to the lingering, harmful uncertainty faced by those subject to the four remaining COVID-19 mandates – specifically, those imposing vaccine requirements on medical workers, military personnel, federal employees, and federal contractors – the American people as a whole still face uncertainty as to whether President Biden has abandoned his desire to impose similar requirements on them.”

Also signing on to the letter were Republican Sens. Roger Marshall of Kansas, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Braun of Indiana.

Together the six lawmakers are promising to use an arsenal of legislative procedures to delay consideration of a short-term funding bill unless it defunds the mandate.

“These COVID-19 vaccine mandates amount to a serious abuse of both federal power and executive authority,” they wrote. “They also further strain the economic and social pressures our society currently faces … In any event, President Biden has no business forcing people to make a tragic choice between unemployment and an unwanted vaccination.”

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Last week, the House passed a bill to keep the government funded until March 11. The legislation is now awaiting consideration by the Senate, where it is expected to pass before Feb. 18 — the date at which the government is set to shut down without a funding measure in place.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Cruz know they do not have the votes to kill the spending bill outright in the evenly split Senate. At the moment, there are easily 10 GOP senators willing to join with all 50 Senate Democrats to break a filibuster and keep the government afloat.

Given that, the five GOP holdouts plan to use the Senate’s longstanding rules and precedents to their benefit. Within the chamber, unanimous consent is needed to expedite consideration of a bill, meaning that all 100 senators must agree on moving forward.

Generally, Senate leaders negotiate the number of amendments and time allotted for debate before unanimous consent is offered. If even one lawmaker opts to object, the process is sidelined and normal order must be followed.

The GOP rebels plan to do exactly that unless their demands are met by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

“At a minimum, we need to take a vote on this before funding [the mandate’s] enforcement,” they wrote. “The livelihoods and personal freedoms of millions of Americans are at stake.”

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Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandate has been ruled unconstitutional for private-sector employees. It remains in effect, however, for military personnel and health-care workers at more than 76,000 facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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