U.S. Senate Votes to Overturn Federal Mask Requirement on Airplanes, Public Transportation

by TK Sanders
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The U.S. Senate passed a resolution yesterday approving a resolution to end the federal mask mandate for air travelers. Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced the legislation via the Congressional Review Act, scoring a win when it passed easily, 57 votes to 40 votes.

At a glance

  • President Biden instituted a federal mask mandate on public transportation upon entering office in 2021
  • The U.S. Senate voted to end the mask mandate for airplane travel
  • Agencies around the world are easing COVID restrictions
  • Airline trade groups are even preparing for a post-COVID world based on their lobbying efforts

Earlier this month, on CDC advice, President Biden extended the public transportation mask mandate until April 18, Simple Flying reports. The White House has already threatened to veto the legislation if it passes the House.

The White House introduced the mandate as one of Biden’s first measures upon taking office in 2021. Despite multiple studies questioning the effectiveness of cloth masks, a public tiring of COVID scare tactics, and airplanes equipped with highly effective HEPA air filters, the government-held fast to the controversial mandate. Following the government’s lead, the airline industry also erred on the side of caution as a result.

Trade group Airlines For America initially supported the mask mandate for the perceived benefit to airline workers. But recently it began lobbying lawmakers for a relaxation fo the rules. Many customers also want an end to the mandate as seen by the increase in mask-related incidents. Although, in fairness, most flights proceed without incident.

To even pass the Senate vote, multiple Democrats needed to vote against party lines, which suggests that all sorts of constituencies across the country have begun voicing concerns to their representatives.

The eight Democrats that voted in favor of ending the mandate were Jacky Rosen, Catherine Cortez Masto, Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema, Michael Bennet, Joe Manchin, Maggie Hassan, and Jon Tester. One Republican senator, Mitt Romney, opposed ending the mandate.

Despite the Senate voting in favor to end the airplane mask mandate, the President will likely veto the bill

Speaking before the vote, Republican Senator Roger Wicker said bipartisan support of the resolution “would go a long way toward convincing the administration that the public is on our side.”

The news comes on the heels of the TSA’s promise to begin working with the CDC more closely in designing guidance for the short-term future. This should come as no surprise, as airline flight attendants and airport employees should benefit from an end to the mask mandate, too. Frontline employees, like ticket agents and flight attendants, have borne the brunt of most passenger anger regarding masks.

After the vote, the White House issued a statement outlining their intentions to veto the legislation.

“Requiring a face covering on public transportation and in transportation hubs has been a critical public health tool. It’s used to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” officials said.

“Public transportation and transportation hubs are places where people across communities congregate, often for extended periods and in close quarters. The determination of the timeline and circumstances under which masks should be required in these settings should be guided by science, not politics. If Congress were to pass this resolution, the President would veto it.”

Outsider.com