U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., is supporting an effort to prohibit the federal government and certain other entities from again imposing or enforcing a face mask mandate on airplanes, public transit or at schools — even if there’s another public health emergency.
The first-term senator and candidate for Indiana’s 2024 Republican gubernatorial nomination said he will back a ploy Thursday by U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, to force immediate Senate consideration of Vance’s anti-mask “Freedom to Breathe Act.”
Vance is unlikely to secure unanimous consent in the Democratic-controlled Senate for speedy action on his legislation.
Indeed, Braun already was criticizing his colleagues across the aisle Wednesday in advance of their expected objection to Vance’s request to bypass the Senate’s normal legislative process and to advance his mask mandate prohibition to the Republican-controlled House.
“We’re not going to go back to the top-down government overreach we saw during COVID. Congress needs to say forcefully that these ineffective, unscientific mask mandates are not coming back in any way, shape or form,” Braun said. “If Democrats don’t intend to bring back mask mandates, they should be right there with us banning them.”
Under the plan, the president, U.S. transportation secretary, or any other federal, state or local official would be barred from issuing a mandate that airline or public transit employees or passengers wear a face mask as a condition of travel.
All privately-owned airlines, rail and bus companies likewise would be prohibited from enforcing any mask requirement adopted on their own in the interest of their business.
In addition, any public, charter or private school or university that receives federal funds could not block a student, parent or community member from attending classes or an on-campus event for refusing to comply with a mask mandate, according to the legislation.
The measure provides the mask mandate prohibition would remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2024, regardless of whether a COVID-19 variant sparks another public health emergency, or even if another contagious respiratory disease emerges with the potential to kill more than 1.1 million Americans as COVID has since 2020. It would not apply to hospitals or nursing homes.
“Mask mandates are ineffective government overreach,” Braun said.
Records show the federal government required masks on public transportation conveyances and at transportation hubs from January 2021 to April 2022. The mandate was discontinued following a court order that remains in effect.
Face masks were required in all indoor public spaces in Indiana from July 2020 to April 2021 under an executive order issued by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID-19 among Hoosiers.
The coronavirus nevertheless so far has infected nearly 1 in 3 Hoosiers and killed 25,383 Indiana residents, records show.