The federal rule applies to transport hubs and conveyances. (Photo by Brandon Bell, Getty Images)
By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
The U.S. Senate passed Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s legislation to end the mask mandate in public transportation, but not by a margin large enough to overcome a threatened veto by President Biden.
Paul’s resolution passed 57-40 Tuesday but it takes a two-thirds vote (67 in the Senate) to override a veto, and the Democrat-controlled House could bottle up the resolution, relieving Biden of the burden of vetoing it. The rule had been set to expire Friday, March 18, but the administration extended it to April 18.
Biden’s Office of Management and Budget said requiring masks in public conveyances and in transportation hubs had prevented the spread of Covid, “saving lives.” It called them “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.”
Paul, in a press release, called the rule an “anti-science, nanny state requirement” that is ineffective. “As the entire world is learning to live with Covid, the federal government still uses fear mongering to stubbornly perpetuate its mandates, rather than giving clear-eyed, rational advice on how to best protect yourself from illness.”
The rule was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2021. On Feb. 25, 2022, it exempted school buses, in conjunction with relaxed guidance for mask wearing in schools. “Travel contributes to interstate and international spread of Covid-19,” the CDC says. “Wearing masks that completely cover the mouth and nose reduces the spread of Covid-19.”
Tuesday’s vote was largely along party lines. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and all other Republicans except Mitt Romney of Utah voted for the resolution, as did Democrats Mark Kelly and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Jon Tester of Montana, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Paul and 16 other Republicans in Congress, led by Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky’s Fourth District, are taking another tack to end the mask mandate: a lawsuit against the CDC, alleging that it lacks the authority to impose such a rule.