Democrats Block GOP Bill That Would Ban Federal Mask Mandates

Tom Ozimek
By Tom Ozimek
September 8, 2023US News
Democrats Block GOP Bill That Would Ban Federal Mask Mandates
People wear masks at an indoor mall in The Oculus in lower Manhattan on the day that a mask mandate went into effect in New York, on Dec. 13, 2021. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Republican efforts to ban mask mandates amid a revival of what some call COVID-19 hysteria were dealt a blow in the Senate on Thursday as Democrats blocked a request by Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) for floor consideration of a bill that would have prohibited federal masking requirements.

Called the Freedom to Breathe Act (pdf), the bill introduced by Mr. Vance would stop any federal official, including the U.S. President, from implementing mask mandates through the end of next year.

The measure would also prevent airlines, schools and colleges, and public transit systems from refusing services to anyone not wearing a mask.

His proposal comes as COVID-19 cases are on the rise, leading some institutions to reimpose mask mandates and sparking concerns of another tidal wave of COVID-19 restrictions.

Mr. Vance said earlier that he would try to force floor consideration of his bill and, speaking on the Senate floor on Sept. 7, made a case for its passage.

“All of us have lived through the failed experiment of mandatory masking,” Mr. Vance said.

“Today, I want to ensure that we do not subject the American people to this tyranny again for the sake of nothing,” Mr. Vance continued, adding that seasonal upticks in endemic respiratory viruses like COVID-19 are normal and no cause for alarm. remove

“They shouldn’t cause panic from our leadership or our country, and they shouldn’t cause us to reimpose a policy that has failed time and time again,” he added.

Calling previous policies of mandatory masking a “failure” that had very few benefits compared to the costs, Mr. Vance called for expedited consideration and unanimous passage of his bill under a process known as unanimous consent.

Sen. J.D. Vance
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) delivers remarks at a hearing Washington, on March 22, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

‘Democrats Have Sent a Clear Signal’

Under the unanimous consent process, the usual lengthy debate and formal vote process on a bill is avoided by obtaining agreement from all senators, meaning a single objection can sink the effort.

Mr. Vance’s proposal for his bill to be passed by unanimous consent failed as Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) objected, blocking the measure.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Mr. Markey claimed the bill would hamper pandemic response efforts and would “hamstring public health experts who guided our nation out of the pandemic.”

“It makes no sense to put limits on how communities and individuals can protect themselves. This bill is a red herring. It is a false debate,” Mr. Markey continued, adding that it should be up to local public health officials to make decisions about measures like mask mandates.

“If, in the opinion of public health officials, strategies can be adopted using masks that reduce the likelihood that more will die, we should give them the freedom to make those decisions,” Mr. Markey added.

His objection blocked expedited passage of Mr. Vance’s bill, which was an outcome his office warned about in a press release on Wednesday.

“Any floor objection to Senator Vance’s unanimous consent request would amount to a clear admission that Democrats intend to reimpose mask mandates in the near term,” his office said.

Responding to the blocking of his bill, Mr. Vance said in a statement obtained by The Epoch Times that the move reveals an appetite on the part of Democrats for a mask mandate comeback.

“Democrats have sent a clear signal to the nation that they support the return of mask mandates,” Mr. Vance said.

Besides Mr. Vance, a number of Republican lawmakers and figures have voiced their displeasure with reports showing that some businesses are reimposing mask mandates.

In recent weeks, a handful of hospitals have started to reimpose mandates, though some have required masks only for staff while exempting patients and visitors.

Responding to speculation that it could be bringing back mask mandates on public transportation or in federal offices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told The Epoch Times recently that it has no immediate plans to update its guidance on mask-wearing.

“Anyone may choose to wear a mask in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor areas, including on public transportation and in transportation hubs at any time,” a CDC spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Aug. 29.

The agency also doesn’t have any mandates in effect, and the “CDC’s advice for individual and community actions around COVID-19 are tied to hospital admission levels,” the spokesperson added.

While the spokesperson didn’t specify what hospital admission levels might trigger a guidance update, hospitalizations increased 15.7 percent for the week ending Aug. 26 from 15,050 to 17,418, according to the latest data from the CDC.

Republicans Oppose Mandates

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a trained physician who has been opposed to COVID-19 mandates of any kind, told Fox News in a recent interview that masking is “more about control” than anything else. “They have always had utter disdain for the working class, utter disdain for the regular folks,” he said.

” If you don’t have a Ph.D., they think you’re not smart enough to make your own health care decisions,” he added, “so they have a great deal of love and inspiration that comes from central authority and big government making decisions.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.) said in a recent town hall event that she won’t for a federal budget that included funding for COVID-19 mask mandates or other related rules. “That is over,” she said during an Aug. 31 town hall in Floyd County, Georgia. “Even Joe Biden said it was over.”

Kari Lake, a rising GOP star who ran for governor in Arizona, wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that “I will not comply with any new mandates or lockdown,” while suggesting that others do the same.

“We won’t give up our freedoms again,” wrote Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) on Monday. “No more tyrannical vaccine or mask mandates.”

From The Epoch Times

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