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Roger Marshall’s shutdown threat isn’t about vaccine mandate — or the economy, either

·2 min read
Senator Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican (Greg Nash/Associated Press file photo)

Of course Roger Marshall is threatening to shut down the government over federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Because to Kansas’ freshman U.S. senator, the ongoing, real-life threat to his constituents’ health and well-being is just another chance for some pandemic grandstanding.

Darkly hinting he was willing to “shut down the economy” and “threaten national security,” Marshall demanded Wednesday that Democrats pull money to enforce President Joe Biden’s limited vaccine order from the deal needed to keep the government running. It’s the Republican’s second fiscal attack on the mandate, after an amendment he pushed failed in September.

As for the economy, requiring some workers to be vaccinated (or get tests that aren’t frequent enough to be much good anyway) is its best bet right now. Because the real danger is more employees and customers getting sick and dying. It’s prolonging the uncertainty as the U.S. braces for what the omicron variant might bring.

The COVID-19 rate is rising again in Kansas. The Kansas Chamber — hardly a proponent of Big Government — opposed the Legislature’s pushback against the federal vaccine mandate, warning it could have “unintended consequences.” More people need to understand that getting vaccinated is good for your health, and also good for business.

But yes, we get it, Senator: Giving the finger to vaccines and masks plays great with your base. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially by the bureaucrat class. (When none other than Donald Trump is booed by his own rally crowd for recommending the jab, you know that toothpaste isn’t going back in the tube.)

And we now see how that obstinance is playing out on the ground. COVID-19 is killing people at higher rates in red counties than in blue, and that gap has accelerated in recent weeks. Denialism has a death count — but it’s apparently too much to ask Marshall to show what leadership looks like.

“Doc” Marshall has always practiced strange coronavirus medicine. The physician-turned-politician recommended (and took) quack off-label doses of hydroxychloroquine on the campaign trail last year. Yet he got the COVID-19 vaccine and suggests others follow suit, even while fighting mandates and trying to block certain research into the virus’s origins.

There’s no reason to think the threat of a government shutdown will be the senator’s last volley in the battle for “personal freedom” at the expense of the greater good, a speedier economic recovery, or basic common sense. Because Roger Marshall is far more interested in fighting the culture war than he is in fighting the pandemic. And he’ll surely find plenty more opportunities to soldier on.

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