A group of Republican senators is increasingly ready to shut down the federal government in order to stop President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates. On Wednesday, the House failed to vote as planned on a short-term budget resolution to keep the government open past Friday, when the current spending authorization expires.
Holding things up is a demand from some Republicans that the next budget agreement not contain funds for enforcing the various vaccine mandates issued by the Biden administration, including one that requires members of the military to get the jab, and another that would require employers with 100 or more workers to get vaccinated or take periodic COVID-19 tests.
The House Freedom Caucus sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) that asks him to use "all procedural tools" at his disposal to pass a continuing resolution that prohibits funding for "unAmerican" and "unlawful" vaccine mandates.
It's a sentiment that's being echoed in the Senate as well.
Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah) is reportedly leading the effort, and urged his fellow GOP senators to support a shutdown at a lunch on Wednesday, reports Politico.
"I think we should use the leverage we have to fight against what are illegal, unconstitutional and abusive mandates from a president and an administration that knows they are violating the law," Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) told reporters on Wednesday, reports The Washington Post.
Cruz, you'll recall, led a successful effort in 2013 to hold up another spending bill because it contained funding for Obamacare. That resulted in a 16-day shutdown of the federal government.
Many Republican senators were critical of Cruz's maneuvering at the time, arguing—correctly, as it turns out—that the GOP would be blamed for a government shutdown that had no hope of actually ending Obamacare.
The backlash from that episode perhaps explains why a number of anti–vaccine mandate Republicans are nevertheless trying to throw cold water on their colleagues' demand for a shutdown over funding said mandates.
"Shutdowns almost never work out," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R–Mo.) to Politico.
McConnell has been pretty tight-lipped about the whole affair. He reportedly said nothing at the lunch where Lee urged senators to back a continuing resolution with no funding for vaccine mandates, opting instead to silently eat two pieces of chicken.
He told reporters on Tuesday that there would be no shutdown, reports the Post.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), for his part, has said that the two parties are making progress in their budget talks, and cautioned GOP senators against causing what he branded as a "needless Republican government shutdown."
Unfolding in the background of these budgetary machinations are a host of legal challenges to the White House's vaccine mandates.
In late November, the Biden administration asked an appeals court to lift a stay on its vaccine mandate for private employers. That stay had been issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit earlier that month. Several members of the military, represented by former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, have also sued over a requirement that service members get the jab or face dishonorable discharge.
The U.S. Supreme Court may be inching closer to overturning longstanding precedent on abortion. On Tuesday, oral arguments were heard in a case challenging Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state's law violates past Supreme Court rulings that prohibit states from restricting abortion prior to "fetal viability"—meaning the fetus can survive outside the womb. Viability is generally considered to begin around 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Most of the action, as Reason's Jacob Sullum covered yesterday, involved the court's six conservative justices pondering whether they could uphold Mississippi's law without wholly overturning decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey that together established that viability standard.
Their comments and questions, wrote Sullum, "do not bode well for anyone who hoped that the Court would retain the essence of its abortion precedents even if it let Mississippi's law stand. Given the unsatisfying justification for the viability rule and the lack of promising alternatives, a majority of the justices may well conclude that 'half-measures' won't suffice."
Sullum has also written about why both the current viability standard and the potential replacements for it are all arbitrary.
Supply chain issues and labor shortages are handicapping current economic growth, according to a new Federal Reserve report. That's the takeaway from the Fed's Beige Book—a collection of interviews with business leaders, economists, and market experts on the state of the economy—that was published on Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal summarizes:
Despite robust hiring during the period covered by the report—early October through mid-November—businesses contacted by the Fed "reported robust demand for labor but persistent difficulty in hiring and retaining employees." Child care issues, Covid-19 safety concerns and retirements were the top issues cited for the labor crunch….
Businesses throughout the country reported rising input costs and said they were passing them on to customers. In the Cleveland Fed district, 80% of firms surveyed said they had higher costs over the past two months. "Gas, electric, food, raw materials, products, everything is going [up]," a logistics business said.
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• Judge Glock argues over at the Breakthrough Institute that suburbia is actually good for the environment, and states should stop trying to prevent "sprawl."
• A new poll of Los Angeles County voters finds that a majority support a new state law that will allow duplexes to be built on almost all residential land in the state, including in once single-family neighborhoods.
• San Francisco officials are going to keep their indoor mask mandate in place "indefinitely" in response to the new omicron variant. Did we expect anything else?
• The White House has a new plan for fighting the virus that includes easier access to at-home testing, more booster shots, and more travel restrictions.
• The Michigan student who killed four people at Oxford High School earlier this week had apparently provoked concerns from school administrators prior to the Tuesday shooting.
• Over at National Review, Philip Klein argues that the omicron variant is actually a great example of why we need to ditch COVID-19 restrictions and get on with our lives.