GOP senators skip votes that would have ended COVID mandate funding, but also closed government

The GOP senators who could have helped pass amendments among Democrats' thinned ranks reportedly went to Munich Security Conference.

Updated: February 19, 2022 - 2:17pm

A handful of Senate Republicans took a pass Thursday on trying to end federal funding for Biden administration COVID-19 mandates when they no-showed for two amendment votes attached to the so-called "continuing resolution" the chamber passed to keep the federal government fully operational going into Friday. 

The amendments were proposed by GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, the later sensing political opportunity in the evenly split 50-50, considering New Mexico Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan is still recovering from a recent stroke and fellow Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, of California, and Mark Kelly, of Arizona, were out reportedly attending to family matters.

"The only way Dems win the vote is if Rs skip town. Don't!," Cruz tweeted Thursday.

The amendment by Lee, to deny funding to enforce federal vaccine mandates, failed 46-47, with GOP Sens. Richard Burr, North Carolina; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma; and Mitt Romney, Utah, reportedly not sticking around to vote. 

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the chamber's No. 2 Republican, attributed the situation to senators wanting to leave for the Munich Security Conference.

"Those folks are leaving later this afternoon," he said.

Thune also argued that leadership does not have much "control" over the members' departures.

Still, had the amendments by Lee, of Utah, or Cruz, of Texas, passed, the continuing resolution, or stop-gap spending bill, would have had to go back to the Democrat-controlled House, which is out of session.

The situation would have resulted in Republicans being blamed for shuttering the government, highly unpopular among voters in an election year. And House Democrats would almost certainly vote against the amendments.

The more narrow Cruz amendment would have barred federal funding from going to schools and other child-care facilities that impose COVID vaccine mandates. That was defeated  44-49, with GOP Sens. Roy Blunt, of Missouri, and Susan Collins, of Maine, joining all Democrats in opposition.