Roger Marshall, GOP senators reach deal on COVID vaccine mandate action, government shutdown averted

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, was among a group of Republican senators seeking to leverage a potential government shutdown into denying funds for federal vaccine mandates.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and a group of Republican senators fell short in their effort to leverage a potential government shutdown into action blocking federal vaccine mandates announced earlier this year by President Joe Biden's administration.

Lawmakers in Washington had until Friday to come to an agreement to keep the federal government funded, likely a temporary stopgap until early next year. Leaders from both parties came to an agreement Wednesday evening on a short-term funding deal and the measure passed both chambers of Congress on Thursday.

But Marshall led a group of lawmakers who wanted to draw the process out so amendments could be offered — notably language to undo the mandates, which are on hold currently due to a slate of court rulings.

“Shutting down the government is worth saving the jobs in Kansas," Marshall told CNN Thursday.

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The mandates at issue include a requirement from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration that workers at large companies get the vaccine or be tested weekly, as well as separate directives for federal contractors, health care workers and long-term care staff.

Senate leadership wound up striking a deal with Marshall, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and others to allow a vote on an amendment to block the large employer mandate's implementation, allowing the latest funding package to move forward and potentially avert a government shutdown.

The amendment was ultimately defeated, with conservatives unable to win support from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Opposition to the mandates has raged at the state level as well.

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It comes after Gov. Laura Kelly signed a measure last week making it easier for workers to get religious and moral exemptions from getting the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as making those who lose their jobs due to vaccine requirement are eligible for unemployment.

It came after a special session last Monday where lawmakers considered a range of other measures pushed by GOP members to oppose the federal mandates, including barring any COVID-19 vaccination requirements by public or private sector entities.

These proposals are also expected to be considered when legislators return to Topeka in January for their annual legislative session.

Andrew Bahl is a senior statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at or by phone at 443-979-6100.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: GOP senators use government shutdown threat to rebuff vaccine mandates