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Manchin Says He May Join GOP in Defunding Biden’s Vaccine Mandate

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Thursday he may join Republican colleagues and support a measure that would block funding for President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.

“I’ve been very supportive of a mandate for federal government, for military … I’ve been less enthused about it in the private sector,” Manchin told The Hill.

The outlet explained:

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A small group of conservative senators are pushing for a vote on their proposal to block funding for the mandate as part of the Senate’s consideration of a short-term deal to fund the government into mid-February. Democratic leadership hasn’t publicly opened the door to an amendment vote.

The Senate took a similar vote in September as part of its debate on the first short-term funding bill. Manchin voted with all Democrats against the amendment at the time.

But the threshold for the amendment to get added into the funding bill at the time was three-fifths, meaning even if Manchin or another Democrat had voted “yes,” their “no” vote wasn’t critical for Democrats.

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It may be a moot point now, however: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told Fox News Republicans would not force a government shutdown over Biden’s mandate.

He told Fox News:

Well, I think there’s good news. Multiple courts have pushed the pause button on these government vaccine mandates. There’s a decent chance the courts will strike them down.

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Secondly, next week we’re going to have a vote on the vaccine mandate, prohibiting that regulation from going into effect. I think it has a decent chance of passing the Senate. I don’t think shutting down the government over this issue is going to get an outcome.

It would only create chaos and uncertainty, so I don’t think that’s the best vehicle to get this job done. I think the courts are likely to get it done or we’ll pass [it] early next week freestanding, a measure to overturn the government mandate…

We’re not going to shut the government down. That makes no sense for anyone. Almost no one on either side thinks that’s a good idea. 

Separately, The Hill reported that there was debate among Republican senators during a Wednesday lunch as to whether shutting down the government over the vax mandate was sound policy, with several suggesting that it could hurt the party in the long run while giving President Biden a boost at a time when his approval rating is in the tank.

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“There was not full agreement, that’s for sure,” Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt of Missouri said following debate.

“I think shutdowns almost never work out very well,” Blunt, who is retiring next year, noted further.

“My point is we’re going to get the vote on CRA next week anyway with none of the political collateral damage,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) noted, a reference to a vote on defunding the mandate via the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress a means of stopping federal regulations members don’t agree with.

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But that law is rarely invoked and never successful since it requires the same president who implemented the regulation to sign the bill striking the rule down into law. Biden’s not likely to sign any bill striking down his vaccine mandate and there is nowhere near the two-thirds majority in both congressional chambers to override his veto.

As for Democrats, they are already positioning Republicans to take the fall, politically, should the group of GOP senators follow through on demanding an amendment to defund the vaccine.

“Our Republican colleagues … can either work with us to move the process quickly through the chamber or they can engage in obstructive tactics that will make a government shutdown almost a certainty,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer of New York said Wednesday.

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