A Senate Democrat Thursday blocked legislation introduced by a GOP lawmaker that would prohibit a federal mask mandate across the U.S.
Sen. J.D. Vance, Ohio Republican, filed legislation earlier in the week that would bar the federal government from imposing mask mandates on transit systems or in schools.
However, Sen. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, blocked Mr. Vance’s attempt to pass the bill by unanimous consent and said that local officials must be able to impose mask mandates when necessary.
“The bill would undermine the ability of states, cities and towns across this country to make decisions about what’s best for their communities,” Mr. Markey said. “It would silence and hamstring public health experts who have guided our nation out of the darkest days of a pandemic that has killed 1,139,000 people in our country in three years.”
Mr. Vance responded, “We lost [Americans] in spite of some of the most aggressive masking policies in the world. If mandatory masking were to save our citizens, it would have already done so.”
He said his bill would not ban people from wearing masks if they choose to do so.
“Freedom is fundamentally respecting that you might have a different view than I do … not using government mandates to force our citizens,” Mr. Vance said. “Our kids need us to not be chicken little about every respiratory illness.”
Mr. Vance’s Freedom to Breathe Act would prohibit the president or any federal official from issuing a mask requirement on domestic air travel, public transit systems, or primary, secondary and postsecondary schools.
He introduced the legislation as several businesses and schools reimposed masking rules because of a surge in COVID-19 cases. The legislation also would prohibit air carriers, transit authorities and educational institutions from refusing service to people who don’t want to wear masks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases during the pandemic, recently defended the use of masks as a form of protection on the individual level, prompting a rebuke from GOP lawmakers.
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