Mitch McConnell smacks down the GOP shutdown brigade, warning of ‘chaos and uncertainty’ if the federal government closes its doors

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on October 26, 2021.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol on October 26, 2021. Samuel Corum/Getty Images
  • McConnell swiped at the GOP senators pushing the government closer to a potentially chaotic shutdown.
  • McConnell said on Fox News a federal shutdown “makes no sense for anyone.”
  • Fast-tracking a short-term spending deal requires all 100 senators to be onboard as some Senate Republicans push to defund Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday swiped at the small group of Senate Republicans threatening to shut down the federal government this weekend in a bid to defund President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing mandates.

The directives for large employers to either require workers to get a shot or set up a COVID-19 testing regime at workplaces still isn’t in effect because they’re held up in court. But that hasn’t prevented a GOP shutdown brigade made up of Sens. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Ted Cruz of Texas to demand a short-term funding deal intended to keep the government open also include a provision to strip funding from federal agencies charged with carrying out the order.

Not all Senate Republicans are onboard with their position, including McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican told Fox News that the funding bill isn’t the right venue to go after the mandates. “There’s a decent chance the courts will strike them down. I don’t think shutting down the government over this issue is going to get an outcome. It’s only going to create chaos and uncertainty.”

McConnell also reiterated his belief that the government wouldn’t end up closing its doors. “We’re not going to shut the government down,” he said. “That makes no sense for anyone. Almost no one on either side thinks it’s a good idea.”

His comments come as Congressional leaders struck a short-term funding deal that would keep the government open and fund it at existing levels until Feb. 18, commonly referred to as a “continuing resolution.” The only change to current funding levels in the bill is an additional $US7 ($AU10) billion allocated to resettle Afghan refugees, a Democratic demand.

“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

Now Democrats and Republicans are racing to swiftly approve the measure in both the House and Senate by midnight Friday when federal funding dries up.

The spending deal sets the stage for a possible House vote later on Thursday. But its prospects are cloudier in the Senate since all 100 senators must consent to fast-tracking the bill. Marshall and Cruz didn’t appear to be ready to lend support to the deal on Thursday. 

“We’ve taken extraordinary steps to protect public health. But we also need to respect individual liberty,” Cruz said on Thursday afternoon. 

“I don’t want to shut the government down,” Marshall told reporters. “But we told Senator Schumer over a month ago that we don’t want any funding in the CR defund OSHA for this unconstitutional federal vaccine mandate.”

Asked about McConnell’s remarks, Marshall told Insider: “I don’t have a comment.”

Both are seeking for a vote on an amendment attached to the bill to nix federal funding with a 51-vote threshold instead of the usual 60.

GOP support is critical to avert a shutdown, but McConnell is struggling to quell the shutdown brigade in a challenge to his grip over the GOP caucus.