A government shutdown to protest vaccine mandates? Welcome to today’s GOP.


imageDuring Barack Obama’s presidency, Republicans shut down the government to try to defund the Affordable Care Act.Though the tea party movement that energized such tactics was heavily constituted by racial backlash over who might benefit from the ACA, it’s still characterized to this day as a tri-cornered-hat rebellion against Big Government.Now we’re learning that a hardcore group of GOP senators is trying to stage a government shutdown to defund one of President Biden’s vaccine mandates.Here again we constantly hear that fears of Big Government drive opposition to any and all mandates designed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.But this new episode provides a way to revisit this notion.

When placed in the context of all the other GOP maneuvering on covid-19, it’s hard to discern a broader consistent organizing principle here other than opposition to pretty much any kind of collective action that might mitigate the pandemic.Politico reports that a small gang of GOP senators is threatening to withhold support for a short-term measure funding the government unless Democratic leaders agree to deny funding for Biden’s vaccine policy for the private sector.

The Labor Department is developing a rule requiring big companies to mandate vaccines or regular testing for their workers.Until that’s defunded, those GOP senators will not agree to a procedural move allowing the government to stay open — every senator must agree to expedite the short term funding bill by “unanimous consent” — and they plan to delay things until past the Friday deadline when funding runs out.It’s unclear how many GOP senators will support this, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly isn’t too fazed.But Politico reports that a bloc of House right-wingers are also behind the plot and are pressing leadership to stand with those senators.In political terms, this is pretty loopy.The public hates government shutdowns: Recall that during the 2013 standoff, the ACA was very unpopular at that point, but Republicans got their behinds handed to them nonetheless.By contrast, vaccine mandates for private companies have plurality support .

Staging a government shutdown over this policy would be a great way to boost its popularity.But obviously, this is not aimed at a broad mainstream audience.It’s aimed at the base and the right-wing media apparatus.

You can see this in the unhinged rhetoric of Republicans making this stand:Of course, the policy also would allow for employees to get regular testing, not vaccines.And the point is to do all we can to prevent the spread of a pandemic that continues to kill nearly 1,000 Americans per day .To be fair, the legal case for Biden’s policy is not a slam dunk.For now it’s blocked in court .It may ultimately get struck down on the grounds that federal law requires a clear demonstration that workplaces subjected to it must pose a serious danger to employees, a challenging standard even amid the pandemic.But the notion that this policy constitutes tyranny is insanely hyperbolic.And it’s hard to discern any consistency among Republicans when it comes to their acts of resistance against, well, pretty much any policies that might arrest covid — including in the private sector.For instance, note that some GOP-led states have been trying to ban all manner of private entities from implementing their own vaccine requirements.They are trying to use government power to bar private businesses from protecting workers and customers as they see fit.Then there’s this new trend in which state-level Republicans are extending unemployment benefits to the unvaccinated.

Under these laws, the same Republicans ending those benefits to push people back into low-wage jobs are making them available to people who are unemployed for refusing a vaccine.As William Saletan explains in a good piece , these laws reveal all kinds of ideological inconsistencies and pathologies.Those who are jobless due to vaccine refusal are not required to show the “self-reliance” that others who are unemployed due to their own conduct must, including the failure to look for work.You can be ineligible for these benefits if, say, you are discharged from work due to nonattendance from fear of getting covid, but eligible if you refuse vaccines, engaging in social conduct that makes workplaces and communities more dangerous.“This isn’t a party of personal autonomy, moral responsibility, free enterprise, limited government, or self-reliance,” Saletan concludes.“Today’s GOP believes that the government should control workplace policies and should subsidize freeloaders who endanger their communities.It’s the party of socialism for anti-vaxxers.”And when the federal government employs an existing statute to create workplace regulations requiring employees to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing? That’s government tyranny.Obviously some Republicans might object to Biden’s workplace policy while also opposing bans on private-sector vaccine mandates or opposing this wildly inconsistent approach to unemployment benefits.But how often do you hear Republicans denouncing the latter two policies?Just as the tea party’s anti-government fervor reflected all sorts of other preoccupations, in this case it’s hard to discern a consistent principle other than opposition to just about any sort of social action — whether by government or the private sector — that might slow the pandemic.We all know perfectly well this tendency is rooted in the obsessions of the Trump movement, not in any consistent ideology.And now it might bring us a government shutdown..

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