Progressive Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, shot down a Republican-proposed bill that aimed to ban federal mask mandates in schools, on airplanes and other public transportation.
Freedom to Have Every Public Tool Available
“We must protect the freedom for communities to have every public health tool available, if it’s needed in the opinion of the public health officials in that community, in that state.
They should be the ones making the decision at the local level, looking at the dangers to their population,” Markey said after killing the bill.
Recent Spike in COVID-19 Cases
The controversial measure proposed by Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and a handful of other Republicans, was spurred by a recent spike in COVID-19 cases that prompted mask requirements in some places across the U.S., including public schools.
An Uptick in COVID Cases Sparks a Debate
The surge in COVID-19 cases ignited a heated national debate, with anti-mask advocates saying they would not tolerate more mask mandates as they had during the previous pandemic.
Experts Tell Public to Cover Their Faces
Some public health experts recommended Americans cover their faces and some school districts, businesses and hospitals have reintroduced mask mandates.
California City Bans Mask Mandate
Huntington Beach, California, proactively prohibited the enforcement of masks and other COVID-19 mandates, asserting a commitment to individual freedoms.
Freedom to Breathe Act
Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were co-sponsoring the Senate bill, called the “Freedom to Breathe Act.” Rep. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) was listed as a sponsor for the legislation.
Federal Officials Wouldn’t Be Able to Issue Mask Mandates
Under the proposed measure, federal officials would not be able to issue mask mandates for schools, domestic air travel, and other modes of public transportation.
It’s Coming Back Unless We Stop It From Happening
“Multiple entities within our government, within the public health bureaucracy, there are local schools in the D.C. area now reimposing mask mandates, this is coming back unless we stop it from happening,” Vance said in a statement.
Freedom to Make Decisions
Markley, however, said that health officials need “freedom to make those decisions.”
Force Democrats to Vote on It
Vance, the junior senator from Ohio who was elected last year, said he would force Democrats to vote on it.
Let’s Make It Bi-Partisan
“That’s why I introduced this legislation, and I’m going to force the Democrats to vote on it,” he said ahead of introducing the bill on the Senate floor.
“If they say the mask mandates are not coming back, then come to the Senate floor, vote with us, and say ‘no more mask mandates.’ Let’s make it bipartisan.”
Calling for Unanimous Consent
When Vance took the stage, he called for its passage via unanimous consent.
“Gimmicks Over People”
Markey objected to the bill’s introduction, saying it would get in the way of local governments making decisions for themselves.
Markley’s objection to the bill was enough to foil the Republican effort. The New England Democrat called the bill a “red herring” and said the GOP cared for “gimmicks over people.”
Undermining the Ability of States, Cities, Towns
“This bill would undermine the ability of states, cities, and towns across this country to make decisions about what’s best for their communities,” he said.
“It would silence and hamstring public health experts who have guided our nation out of the darkest days of the pandemic that has killed 1,139,000 people in our country in three years.”
Mask Mandates Are Not Likely
Despite an uptick in COVID cases, mask mandates are still considered unlikely.
Health experts have said that a federal mandate will not likely happen again, despite the fact that some individual businesses and schools reinstated mask requirements recently.
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Source: The Hill