Democrats block GOP bill to lift mask mandate on public transportation

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)
Greg Nash

Republican Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah) were thwarted by Democrats on Wednesday when they attempted to pass a bill that would revoke the Biden administration’s mask requirement on public transportation.

The federal mask mandate for interstate transit is set to expire in September. It requires masks on airplanes, in airports, on buses and on rail systems.

“We cannot pretend this pandemic is over. This virus is still spreading, it is still mutating, it is still costing lives, and it is still leaving survivors with long-haul symptoms. And, the new delta variant is more contagious, likely to send people to the hospital, and already in our country,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said when she blocked the GOP bill.

Scott and Lee cited the nation’s vaccination rates in arguing that the mask mandate imposes unnecessary expectations and consequences on families and children.

“Now the science is clear that broad mask mandates aren’t necessary. Unfortunately, the CDC has decided to buck the science when it comes to travel and it is still requiring face masks on public transportation,” Scott said on the Senate floor.

“Why is the CDC signally out airlines and public transportation? It doesn’t make any sense,” he added.

The federal mask mandate went into effect in February with an expiration date of May 11, which the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has since extended to Sept. 13. President Biden signed an executive order on his first full day in office directing federal agencies to “immediately take action” to mandate the use of masks on trains, intercity buses, ferries and in airports.

Scott and Lee introduced their legislation last week, with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) sponsoring a companion measure in the House. 

Scott said on Wednesday that airlines and other private companies should be able to make their own decisions about mandating masks.

Before the mandate expiration date was pushed back to September, airlines and unions lobbied TSA to extend it, arguing that the safety and health of workers and passengers were at risk without the mandate.

“If the airline or other company decides it wants to implement a mask policy, so be it. This does not prohibit them from doing so. I’ve been clear, private companies should be able to make decisions that they feel is appropriate for their employees and their customers,” Scott said.

Tags airplanes Airports buses Coronavirus COVID-19 Dan Crenshaw Joe Biden mask mandate Mike Lee Pandemic Patty Murray Public transportation Trains

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