It was widely expected this week that Congress would have no trouble passing a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown. But now it appears some Republican senators are set on causing a government shutdown in protest of federal vaccine mandates, which they say are forcing people to choose between their jobs and their beliefs.
"The vaccine mandate is going to shut down our businesses in this country which is going to further disrupt" the economy," Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told FOX Business Wednesday. "If it was a choice between shutting down the government for a couple of days versus shutting down businesses, better off to shut down the government."
There are almost certainly enough GOP votes to overcome a filibuster and pass a continuing resolution. But just one senator objecting can use procedural tools to force the chamber to drag out consideration of a bill.
And with just over 72 hours until government funding runs out, that could cause a shutdown. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said it seems that's a likely outcome.
"It appears so far there is not unanimous consent to expedite the CR process, of course we don't have a CR yet," he said.
And because of the procedures of the Seanate, just one senator, or a handful of them, with enough determination, could prevent a continuing resolution from being passed until Wednesday – more than four days after the government is set to shut down.
Daines was one of 15 GOP senators to sign a letter last month saying they would "use all means to oppose" a continuing resolution that does not defund federal vaccine mandates. He wasn't clear about what potential conditions would need to be satisfied to expedite the continuing resolution and avoid a shutdown.
But Cramer suggested voting on an amendment to defund vaccine mandates at a 51-vote threshold – the Senate already defeated such an amendment at a 60-vote threshold – might pry loose the votes needed.
"That would be possible," he said. "I think that's, that's all there is left to discuss and whether or not there could be an amendment that we could have a vote on. The question then is, what is the threshold? Would it be a 60 vote threshold or a simple majority threshold? I would encourage you to talk to Senator Lee about what you know and satisfy him."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also signed the letter opposing passing a continuing resolution unless vaccine mandates are defunded. But not all senators who signed that letter are still on that bandwagon.
"My position on it was to get people that have the opportunity to go over the Constitution and make a decision. Now we've got judges looking into -- we've had three federal judges -- I'm good with that," Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said Wednesday. "Let them do their job. We don't need to do their job."
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., meanwhile, said that shutting down the government was simply not a smart thing to do for any reason. Kennedy didn't sign the letter.
"I'm concerned about the mandate but I'm not going to shut down the government. And I do think some of my colleagues have concerns and I share them. We need to keep government open," Kennedy said. "I trust my colleagues to vote their heart. I just hope they take their brains with them."
Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.