The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to avoid a partial government shutdown by extending government funding that is due to expire on Friday night.
The House voted 221 to 212 to keep the government funded through mid-February. Representative Adam Kinzinger was the only Republican to vote for the resolution. The bill will now go to the Senate, where Democrats need Republican votes to pass it.
However, some Senate Republicans are threatening to vote against the legislation over the White House’s vaccine and testing mandate for employers. Some senators say they will not vote for the bill to keep the government open without an amendment barring funding for the mandate.
Due to certain Senate rules, all senators would need to agree to schedule a vote on the resolution in order to quickly pass the stopgap spending plan before the Friday deadline. So a threat by even a few Republicans to oppose the legislation could have significant impact.
The plot by the right comes after some Republican states have already sought to diminish mandates, by expanding unemployment benefits for employees who have been fired or quit over the requirement to get the vaccine.
On Wednesday, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of rightwing Republicans in the House of Representatives, urged their Senate colleagues to block the funding bill, also known as a continuing resolution, “unless it prohibits funding – in all respects – for the vaccine mandates and enforcement thereof”.
In a letter to Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, the House Freedom Caucus said that the Friday deadline gave their Senate colleagues “important leverage” to prevent funding for mandates.
Biden introduced vaccine mandates, which require employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, for federal workers and contractors in July. In September, Biden ordered healthcare workers to be vaccinated and companies with 100 workers or more to require Covid-19 vaccines or testing, which the government said would cover more than 100 million employees. Those measures have been put on hold by court rulings, after Republican state attorneys general, conservative groups and trade organizations sued to stop the regulations.