In a volatile election year, it seems inevitable that some topics will collide and contribute to our national political hysteria and continuing volatile political disputes in this national election year. COVID, vaccine mandates, and the federal budget are all hot-button topics that will quickly fuel political intensity from the left and the right.
So, with that background, here we go.
Potential Shutdown Over Funding Vaccine Mandates in the Budget
Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) has been vocal about a bill to continue funding the government to impose vaccine mandates. The bill that passed in Congress entitled “Further Extending Government Funding Act” became effective on December 3, 2021. This bill continued providing the fiscal year 2022 appropriations to federal agencies through February 18, 2022, or the enactment of the applicable appropriations act.
In other words, this was another continuing resolution while Congress tried to pass a bill funding the government for the fiscal year that started on October 1, 2021.
With regard to the continuing resolution and vaccine mandates, Congressman Roy stated in December:
With today’s passage of yet another continuing resolution, the House rubberstamped funding for President Biden to unilaterally impose five vaccine mandates on the American People. Congress endorsed a federal government that is forcing Americans to decide between making their own healthcare decisions and their livelihoods.
A lot of people in this town seem to have forgotten that the American people are not our subjects. They are our fellow citizens. They are our bosses. This is supposed to be the “People’s House,” where their voices are heard.…
Congress is supposed to use the power of the purse – our Article I Authority – to check the executive branch when they step outside the scope of their obligation to the constitution and harm American citizens in the process. And we have a moral obligation to give voice and representation to the people who elected us whose liberty and livelihoods are being attacked.…
Now it is up to Senate Republicans to assert the authority granted to them by the constitution and stand up for their constituents against this tyranny. It is imperative they stand strong and act, rather than crossing their fingers and hoping the judicial branch bails them, and the American People, out.
As most readers know, as the budget resolution expires on February 18, there is the possibility of another government shutdown. The political disagreements underlying the inability of Congress to pass a federal budget have not gone away.
Congressman Roy is still strongly opposed to federal funding for vaccine mandates. Several Republicans are considering making an effort to shut down the government if the next funding bill includes money for COVID-19 vaccine mandates. This effort is being led by Congressman Roy who wants to pull support from government funding legislation that includes language giving funds for vaccine mandates.
In a statement on January 25th, the Congressman said he is “going to find out” whether Republicans will “unite” and “pledge not to fund these mandates.”
The Republicans laid out their plans in a letter which is now circulating to obtain signatures before the February 18 federal funding deadline approaches. There are reportedly already more than a dozen signatories to the letter.
In effect, the letter seeks to obtain enough signatures to prevent a budget bill or another continuing resolution from passing that contains federal funding for vaccine mandates.
Status of Vaccine Mandates
A Texas court has issued an injunction blocking the government from enforcing President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal employees. The Supreme Court recently struck down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large private businesses, a mandate which impacted the Postal Service. The court case blocking the federal employee vaccine mandate cited the Supreme Court decision as part of the basis for its decision.
Unlike when the continuing resolution passed in December, actions taken by the Judicial Branch in halting at least some vaccine mandates are now a factor in the political process.
There will be more decisions by the judicial system, and likely from the Supreme Court, regarding whether vaccine mandates can be used and for which groups of people. In the meantime, political pressure will likely increase both from those favoring the mandates and those opposed to the mandates.
The effort to obtain support for blocking any continuing resolution or budget bill with funding in it to implement vaccine mandates may increase the chance of another government shutdown.
Government Shutdown and Paying Federal Employees
In the past, federal employees have been paid for the time they were sent home during a government shutdown but the salary was paid later. In effect, some federal employees were facing a financial problem paying bills until the salary payments were approved by Congress after the shutdown.
That is no longer the case.
Under a law enacted in 2019, “employees of the federal government or a District of Columbia public employer who are furloughed or required to work during a lapse in appropriations beginning on or after December 22, 2018, [are required] to be compensated for the period of the lapse.” In other words, back pay for furloughed and essential federal workers will be guaranteed under this law in the event of another shutdown.
It would be foolish to predict what will happen with vaccine mandate funding and the federal budget for the months remaining in fiscal year 2022. The political divide is getting more intense.
As elections approach and pressure builds with the possibility of the House and/or the Senate reverting to Republican control after the November elections, the stress and strains in each party will build and could yield unexpected results and alliances in Congress. Nothing focuses a Congressman’s interest more than the possibility of losing a seat in an upcoming election so there may be changes.
FedSmith will keep readers updated with new court decisions on the vaccine mandates as they emerge when they impact the federal workforce. With the possibility of another shutdown, federal employees may be in for more disruption than what has already transpired. With illnesses from the pandemic and increasing use of telework, many offices are short-staffed or essentially vacant, and trying to accomplish the work of the agency without being in direct contact with co-workers, productivity is likely to be down significantly.
A government shutdown will not make work-life any easier or improve government efficiency. But, until the political disagreements are resolved, more disruption is a likely possibility.