WASHINGTON — Some Republicans are growing increasingly concerned about the political ramifications if a few conservative senators shut the government down to crusade against Covid-19 vaccine mandates. The intraparty clash pits most of the Senate GOP caucus against a trio of members — Sens. Mike Lee, of Utah; Ted Cruz, of Texas; and Roger Marshall, of Kansas — who are insisting the Senate vote on a provision to block vaccine mandates. "Even though 96 percent of Republicans do not want to have it, it'll be Republicans that will be blamed for it. And that's very unfortunate," said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who argued that Democrats want the GOP to suffer the political pain. "Some of my Republican colleagues are playing right into their hands. And if we have a shutdown, it could be an extended shutdown." Democrats see that demand as untenable. President Joe Biden, who has praised vaccines as the way out of the pandemic, is unlikely to sign any bill that reverses his mandates. Shutting the government down would bring nonessential services to a halt but — if the administration gets its way — be unlikely to curb the agencies that are currently responding to the pandemic. Forcing a government shutdown to pressure Democrats to pass policies they would not otherwise support is a tactic Republicans have attempted unsuccessfully before, most notably in 2013 under a Cruz-led effort to block the Affordable Care Act. This time, the three Republicans are outnumbered in their own party. But to avert a shutdown, the Senate will need unanimous approval, meaning a single lawmaker can slow the process and drag it out beyond the Friday night deadline. The House appeared set to pass the bill, which would keep the government funded through Feb. 18, Thursday afternoon. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell maintained his optimism, telling reporters a shutdown would be avoided: "We're not going to do that." Still, as Senate Republicans met Thursday for lunch, there was little indication that the three senators pushing the vaccine provision would back down. Lee said he wants a vote on the amendment at a "simple majority" threshold. Cruz held firm, saying "pissant" politicians must not require people to get the Covid-19 vaccine. "I think it's wrong. It's an abuse of power. It's threatening the jobs of millions of Americans," he said. Sen. John . . . read the full article here.