GOP absences prevent Senate from defunding Biden’s vaccine mandate

Senate Democrats on Thursday averted an attempt to defund President Biden’s vaccine mandate for public healthcare workers due to the absence of four Republican lawmakers.

In a 46-to-47 vote, the Senate blocked an amendment prohibiting tax dollars from going to enforcement of Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandate. The amendment was attached to a larger measure to keep the government funded until March 11. 

GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas introduced the amendment to the spending bill earlier this week. The duo forced Senate Democrats to hold a vote on it by threatening to withhold speedy consideration of the larger measure, which risked a government shutdown Friday if the stop-gap spending bill isn’t passed in time.

“Enough is enough,” Mr. Cruz said when urging support for the amendment. “It’s time to stop the petty tyrants imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates on families across the country.”

Since Congress has to pass a funding measure by Friday, Mr. Schumer acquiesced to a simple-majority vote on the amendment. With at least three Democrats out this week, the amendment looked set to pass. 

That proved impossible, however, when four GOP senators were absent for the vote. The Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Mitt Romney of Utah, are traveling to attend the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

Another amendment offered by Mr. Cruz to defund the White House’s vaccine mandate for schools also went down to the defeat.

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