The threat of a partial government shutdown loomed Wednesday thanks to party differences over extending federal funding and a GOP threat to slow down the legislation in protest of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.

House Democrats abandoned tentative plans to take up a stopgap funding measure because Senate Democrats and Republicans had yet to agree to the terms of the extension.


A temporary funding measure runs out at midnight Dec. 3.

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are close to a deal, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters Wednesday afternoon. But nothing was firm enough for the House to vote on Wednesday, delaying consideration for at least another day.

The extension is likely to carry temporary government funding into at least late January, which is the date Democrats are seeking. Republicans want the stopgap funds to last until Feb. 18. Lawmakers are also haggling over smaller funding provisions in the bill that would allow certain accounts to exceed 2021 funding levels mandated in the bill.

A bipartisan government funding deal could still face delays.

A group of Republicans wants to slow quick consideration of the measure in a bid to force the Biden administration to lift federal vaccine mandates.

The group, led by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, is now under pressure from the rest of the GOP conference, who believe the Republican Party will be blamed for the shutdown.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has repeatedly pledged that Congress will keep funding flowing.

“Nobody should be concerned about a government shutdown,” McConnell said.

Lee is among a group of GOP senators who signed a Nov. 3 letter pledging to stand in the way of government funding unless the mandate is lifted.

“Please be advised that we will not support — and will use all means at our disposal to oppose — legislation that funds or in any way enables the enforcement of President Biden’s employer vaccine mandate,” the GOP senators warned in the letter. “Nor will we vote for or support cloture on any continuing resolution in the absence of language protecting Americans from this action. “

The letter was signed by 15 senators, including Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Jim Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, and Ted Cruz of Texas.

But Republicans can only slow down the measure by a few days, perhaps partially shuttering the government over the weekend or early into next week.

But GOP leaders are eager to avoid the inevitable headlines declaring a Republican-provoked shutdown and are pressuring Republicans against blocking quick passage of government funding to avoid missing Friday’s deadline.


Biden’s vaccine mandate has been hung up by court challenges and the administration has suspended enforcement for private businesses.

But the GOP effort to undo the mandate comes amid escalating fears over omicron, a new COVID-19 variant that may be more transmissible. Health officials announced the first U.S. case of omicron in California on Wednesday.

A group of House Republicans is pushing its Senate GOP colleagues to keep up the fight against mandates.

House Republicans, however, have no leverage to stop a funding bill in the House because rules allow the Democratic majority to pass it quickly.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters the two parties are negotiating the terms of the temporary funding.

On the Senate floor, he warned GOP lawmakers against delaying the bill.

“If every member of this chamber used the threat of a shutdown to secure concessions on their own interests, that would lead to chaos for the millions and millions of Americans who rely on a functioning government,” Schumer said. “So I urge those Republicans who are thinking of poisoning this entire process for their own items to take a step back. There are other arenas and opportunities to have a debate.”