- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 2, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer averted a government shutdown on Thursday after all 50 Democrats stuck together to defeat a rebellion by GOP lawmakers over President Biden’s national COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, struck a deal with a cadre of conservative senators to expedite passage of a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government afloat past Dec. 3.

“I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached between Democrats and Republicans that will allow the Senate to take up and pass the continuing resolution to fund the government through February 18,” Mr. Schumer said. “With this agreement, there will be no government shutdown.”

Overall, the short-term spending measure passed the Senate by a vote of 69-to-28. Nineteen Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined with all 50 Democrats to keep the government open. 

As part of the deal, the majority leader agreed to conservative demands for a vote on an amendment to the bill blocking Mr. Biden‘s vaccine mandate from being implemented on private businesses. In exchange for the concession, five Republican senators dropped their objections to speedy passage of the bill. 

Mr. Schumer even agreed to let the amendment garner a simple majority for adoption — rather than the conventional 60 votes, but the threshold was not met because of the absence of two GOP senators and all 50 Senate Democrats sticking together in opposition. 

One of the absent Republicans, freshman Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, was unable to make the vote because of a prior family commitment.

“Senator Hagerty traveled to Tennessee this afternoon to watch his oldest son — who is a high school senior — play in the state championship football game tonight,” said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the Tennessee Republican. “Senator Hagerty regrets to miss any Senate vote, but as a father nothing would have prevented him from seeing his son’s final game.”

Mr. Hagerty, according to Mr. Deere, would have backed the amendment if he was in attendance. It is unclear how the other absent GOP lawmaker, Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, would have voted on the amendment.

Due to the truancy of the Republicans, the amendment failed by a vote of 48-to-50. Even if the lawmakers were present, the amendment would have likely failed because in the event of a tie Vice President Kamala Harris would have cast the deciding vote. 

One potential Democratic defector, Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, also never materialized. Mr. Manchin voted against the measure after signaling earlier in the day that he was undecided and had serious “concerns” about a vaccine mandate for private businesses. 

The Senate’s passage of the bill ends a tense back and forth among lawmakers over keeping the government open.

By a 221-to-212 vote, the House passed its version of the short-gap funding measure earlier Thursday. 

While the bill keeps government funding at Trump-era levels for the two-month span, it does add an additional $7 billion for Afghan refugee resettlement. 

“We all have a responsibility to make sure that the government functions,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “Our members, whether they are here or they are home, stand ready to keep the government open.” 

Every House Democrat voted in favor of the bill, along with one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. 

The bill now heads to Mr. Biden’s desk for signature. The president is expected to sign the bill before Friday’s government shutdown deadline. 

“I’m happy to let the American people know that the government remains open,” Mr. Schumer said.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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