These Senators Want to Shut Down the Government Rather than Let It Mandate Vaccines

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Just in time for Omicron to land on these shores, Senate conservatives want to shut down the government over the president’s efforts to get more people vaccinated to prevent a shutdown of the entire country.

With the first case confirmed in California Wednesday in a traveler returning from South Africa and Moderna and Regeneron officials warning their products may be less effective against the new variant, they want to gin up a voluntary crisis that would keep federal scientists out of their labs to exacerbate the involuntary one we can’t control?

Yep. That’s your Senate on steroids, always itching for a fight to engage their base at the price of confirming their recklessness. The Congress has to approve a continuing resolution by midnight Friday to keep the government open until they someday do the normal thing and pass an annual budget. But Sen. Roger Marshall has promised to “use all means at our disposal” to gum up the works for the president’s vaccine mandate. Sen. Mike Lee has joined him, saying that as much as he would “like to simplify the process for resolving the CR,” sadly he can’t unless “it also delays the enforcement of the mandates for at least the length of the continuing resolution.”

What’s next? Comparing the mandate-enthusiast and infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele? That already happened on Fox News, thanks to Lara Logan, the former CBS News 60 Minutes correspondent who was asked to leave after a discredited Benghazi report. As venomous as Logan’s new comparison was, she can only spew bile while Congress can actually stymie Fauci’s efforts.

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That nasty deed has been taken up in the Senate by Lee and Marshall who, before promising havoc, were your run-of-the-mill obstructionists rather than the most militant—but bad behavior trickles sideways and down despite the fact that what most people want, quietly, from their government is for checks and artificial limbs to get to veterans and medical care and social security to seniors. Still, Republicans routinely invite Armageddon. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich might well have become president if he hadn’t shut down the government in 1995, citing his hurt when President Bill Clinton snubbed him during a trip on Air Force One to Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral to the point where he had to exit the plane from the rear door.

Republicans don’t have to fear Democrats who lack the stomach, or high school hormones, to grandstand when the stakes are high. You are unlikely to ever read about how “in other news today, the Squad crippled the military’s ability to respond to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine by cutting spending at the Pentagon.” because they objected to whatever’s rankling them at the moment.

Taking no lesson from Gingrich’s forced retirement, the House, particularly the Freedom Caucus, is egging the Senate on. The notoriously capricious FC came to prominence under Mark Meadows, before he moved on to become Trump’s last, and arguably worst, chief of staff. Meadows is busy limiting his cooperation with the Jan. 6 committee and amping up his book sales by leaking word that Trump kept secret testing positive for COVID three days prior to a debate with Biden. He submitted a negative test in the interim but you be the judge: A week later he went to the hospital with full-blown COVID requiring a full-on ventilator.

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With every shutdown comes an uptick in donations from the hard-core base that rewards the entertainment Trump used to provide and that Lauren Boebert is proving so adept at. She keeps hammering the “evil” and “blackhearted” Rep. Ilhan Omar, hinting that the Minnesota lawmaker is a suicide bomber she wouldn’t have shared a members-only elevator with if she’d been carrying a backpack. Even arch-conservative Rep. Nancy Mace told Boebert to cool it, drawing Boebert ally Marjorie Taylor Greene into the fight. Greene called Mace “the trash in the GOP Conference.” The death threats left on Omar’s phone are so vile they have to be heard to be believed. Meanwhile Kevin McCarthy is hiding in an undisclosed location.

That’s your tax dollars at work on Capitol Hill. The default baseline defense for bad behavior in Washington is “ no one died.” That’s particularly lame when it comes to COVID, when nearly 800,000 Americans have. You can see the problem in leaving vaccines to personal choice in the announcement that broadcaster Marcus Lamb went “home to the Lord” Tuesday, his wife expressing regret, but not renunciation, of “alternative” measures like Trump’s bleach and dewormer protocols that Lamb pushed on his 108 million viewers but that somehow didn’t work for him.

Being a Republican means never saying you’re sorry for boosting hydroxychloroquine or rejecting other public health measures. Republicans in Congress will see Marcus Lamb’s death and raise the country hundreds more as they blare out the message that no one who doesn’t want to should have to take the vaccine. Lee is bad enough but Marshal, who’s a medical doctor, should know better. Meanwhile, doctor and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso asked that Biden be stripped of his authority to issue a mandate, calling it “federal government overreach at its worst.”

It’s hard to know which is worse: saying things like that because you believe them, or saying them when you don’t.

In the Senate where the Founding Fathers sent the hot brew served up in the lower chamber to cool, they know better, don’t they? Not these days.

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