Senate Passes Rand Paul Bill to Overturn Federal Mask Mandate for Air Travel

Photo by Elly Johnson on Unsplash

Last week, the Senate passed a bill to overturn the federal mask mandate for air travel as most states have rolled back masking requirements.

The measure was introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and easily passed with the support of eight Democrats.

It came less than a week after the White House announced it would be extending the current federal mask mandate for air travel and public transportation, despite the national easing of COVID-19 restrictions on the state and local level.

The bill’s supporters in the Senate, however, argued that as Americans can now visit most public places without wearing a mask, airports should be no different.

“People can sit shoulder to shoulder in restaurants across the land now, without a mask, they can go to shopping centers, they can go to malls — everywhere but an airport, which looks a lot like a shopping mall to me,” Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said at a press conference prior to the vote, Roll Call reported.

Wicker and other lawmakers urged the White House to roll back its federal requirements earlier this month, as did Airlines for America, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Travel Association in an letter to President Joe Biden’s coronavirus response team, calling for a “plan and timeline to repeal the federal mask mandate within the subsequent 90 days.”

The Congressional Review Act, Roll Call explained, is the latest move on the part of congressional Democrats to combat the Biden administration’s far-reaching COVID-19 policy, and also comes at a time when strategists are warning Democratic candidates campaigns to change their messaging on the pandemic for the sake of success in the November midterm elections.

Democratic Senators Jon Tester (MT), Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Michael Bennet (CO), Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly (AZ), Joe Manchin III (WV), and Maggie Hassan (NH) joined nearly all of the upper chamber’s Republicans to support he bill; Mitt Romney (UT) issued the only GOP vote to preserve the federal mandate.

All the same, it is unclear what might happen to the bill in the House of Representatives.

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