Democrats Thwart Shutdown, Out Cruz's Intentions
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Last night, Congress avoided a total federal government shutdown when both the House and Senate held back-to-back votes to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that will extend funding until midnight on February 18, 2022. This latest stopgap was threatened this week by a few Republicans, who wanted to use the issue of vaccine mandates to throw a wrench in the entire system, leaving vulnerable Americans without essential government income through the holiday season.
A group of Senate Republicans, led by Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Roger Marshall (R-KS), decided this week that they would hold the emergency CR bill vote hostage unless Democrats in the Senate agreed to a simple-majority vote on defunding President Biden’s vaccine mandate for big businesses.
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The mandate in question gives all US businesses, with over 100 employees, until Jan. 4, 2022, to make sure their workers have received at least two of the currently approved Covid vaccinations. If workers fail to meet this deadline, all who remain fully unvaccinated must begin wearing masks by Dec. 5th and provide a negative Covid-19 test on a weekly basis following the January deadline a month later.
What the Conservative Senators were demanding was an agreement from Democratic Senate leadership that in exchange for a vote on the CR funding bill, the Senate would also hold a vote on their newest proposal to defund Biden's mandate. The catch: Senate Republicans wanted their defunding attempt to be attached to the CR as an amendment and they wanted the vote to be a “simple-majority,” which means they would only need to convince one Democrat to vote with them in order to succeed.
"I've offered a very simple solution, a very reasonable solution. ... I just want to vote on one amendment," Senator Lee said during a Senate floor speech on Thursday. "A simple up-or-down, yes or no, a simple-majority vote. That's all I'm asking…We're providing every opportunity to avoid a shutdown," he said.
The Senate took a similar vote during the debate over the last short-term government funding bill in September, but Republicans failed to get what they wanted then, too. The same amendment defunding the vaccine mandate was included, and every GOP senator voted for the amendment at the time, but the vote was held traditionally, meaning three-fifths of the Senate needed to confirm. Clearly, Cruz, et all., felt that they could succeed this time by changing the vote requirement and peeling just one Democrat away from their caucus. Cue the Whomp. Whomp tune.
What is the most frustrating aspect of this for me, as a lawyer, is the stunning and brazen display that Ted Cruz and others put on for the cameras, which included a blatant lie about the “illegality” of a vaccine mandate. While this was ostensibly done to appeal to their supporters who do not know better, the mere idea that an attendee of an ivy league law school would knowingly make a false statement that will end up harming Americans who believe him is beyond the pale.
While several Appellate Courts, with a conservative majority, have overturned the vaccine mandate temporarily, the Supreme Court turned down a request from a group of Maine healthcare workers in October to block a state coronavirus vaccination mandate that does not contain an exception for religious objectors. This was the second time that the highest court in the US refused to take a vaccine mandate case. The reason: there is well-settled law that supports the federal government’s right to impose an emergency vaccine mandate on the states for the sake of public health and welfare. Apparently, they don’t teach vaccine cases, decided by the Supreme Court in 1905 at Harvard Law school.
I have no exact, direct sourcing at this point to the various Cruz, Lee, and Marshall donors who are heavily invested in stopping the vaccine mandate requirement due to costs and other reasons. The US Chamber of Commerce has made it known that they will not be openly supporting the mandate. However, the Chamber of Commerce, one of Washington’s largest trade groups, has no objection to the vaccine mandate within its own building for all visitors and staff. Ted Cruz is also fully vaccinated and unlike the Chamber of Commerce, has announced public support for vaccines.
The most obvious common denominator here, between the contradictory actions of these Republican Senators and the Chamber of Commerce, is money. Rather than serving the people who elected them, it is clear that their focus remains solely on advancing the protections of large businesses, the exemptions that cost these corporate money-makers less to enforce, but cost the public so much more — their health.
Last month I wrote an article about the hypocritical way in which Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) was saying one thing and then actually doing another. Sinema’s behavior is more reminiscent of the Chamber of Commerce’s, in that she says little and does not openly support or oppose much. But, in her case, the reasoning for this is simple and goes back to money.
Sinema took nearly a million dollars from industry groups and individual corporations, who have been financially backing the destruction of the Build Back Better agenda and its $3.5 trillion in funding for critical safety net programs in the US. She has made a point, through inactivity, to directly advocate for well-monied organizations that oppose BBB, in direct opposition to what a majority of her constituents want and the ideals that she once claimed to represent.
This colloquialism of “do as I say, not as I do,” has now become a more obvious barometer for quickly discerning which politicians have sold out and to whom. It also appears as though party lines don’t provide any real barrier to elected officials who are seeking to make money, not law. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Ted Cruz, Ted Lee…we can just throw them all in the same grifter bucket. Obvious note: we’re going to need more buckets.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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