A long-shot effort, led in part by U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., to get the U.S. Senate to bypass its normal legislative process and immediately approve a nationwide ban on face mask mandates has failed.
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, sponsor of the anti-mask “Freedom to Breathe Act,” requested unanimous consent that his proposal banning mask requirements on airlines, public transit and at schools through 2024 be considered approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate without a recorded vote, and forwarded to the Republican-controlled House for further action.
“Mandatory masking was a failure. It had costs for very little benefits and we shouldn’t repeat it,” Vance said. He also described mask mandates aimed at preventing the spread of respiratory illness as “tyranny.”
“We are about to have some serious respiratory problems. We always do in the fall, and maybe it will be worse this fall and this winter. But I think that what our children, most of all, need — and I’m the father of three kids under the age of 7 — they need us to not be Chicken Little about every single respiratory pandemic and problem that confronts our country.”
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., objected to Vance’s unanimous consent request and thereby blocked the anti-mask legislation from winning Senate approval.
Among his many criticisms of Vance’s plan, Markey said the proposal goes against the long-held Republican principle that the federal government should not be making decisions best left to state and local leaders who are more in tune with local issues and needs.
“Our communities must be able to take steps to prevent people from getting sick, or getting sicker, including the tools of vaccines and masks,” Markey said. “(This legislation) 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.”
Markey also observed that few entities across the country even are considering, let alone implementing, mask mandates in response to the growing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
“We should have an aquarium down in the well of the Senate to capture all of the red herrings that are being introduced into this public health debate. It’s a distraction. It’s misleading. And it’s meant to distract from what the GOP really stands for right now: gimmicks over people,” Markey said.
Braun insisted the outcome suggests all Democrats favor mask mandates, even though only Markey objected to Vance’s extraordinary request for immediate approval of his anti-mask legislation.
“We had enough of that nonsense over many years ago. This is a way to have an insurance policy that it doesn’t happen again,” Braun said.