Nearly a dozen Democrats joined Republicans in the Senate to vote on an amendment blocking the federal funding to enforce mask mandates.
In a 59 – 38 vote in the Senate Wednesday, lawmakers approved the ban that will prohibit the Department of Transportation from using federal funds to enforce mask mandates on all modes of transportation.
“This is a massive victory for personal freedom in this country,” Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio), who offered the amendment, said in a statement after the vote on the “Freedom to Breathe Act.”
“We saw countless abuses of authority throughout the COVID pandemic, and the American people were justifiably enraged by unscientific mask mandates. Today, the United States Senate took an emphatic step toward common sense and individual liberty. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here and look forward to continuing the fight,” he added.
HUGE: Vance amendment to BAN federal mask mandates on commercial airlines and public transit has passed 59-38. “This is a massive victory for personal freedom in this country…the Senate took an emphatic step toward common sense and individual liberty.” – @JDVance1pic.twitter.com/x1HELPEpkg — William Martin (@wsmartin218) October 25, 2023
“The amendment is similar to a bill Vance introduced in September, which would have prohibited the reinstatement of federal mask mandates in the United States. The legislation was more wide-ranging and attempted to ensure no federal entities, commercial airlines, or public schools brought back the mandates in the future,” the Washington Examiner reported.
The amendment was included in the three-bill spending package that senators considered on Wednesday as they made their way through the 41 amendments to the $280 billion package aimed at funding military construction as well as the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and the Food and Drug Administration.
“Lawmakers reached an agreement on Tuesday to bring the long-awaited minibus, which combines three of the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government, up for amendment votes this week,” the Washington Examiner noted.
Democrats up for reelection in 2024 such as Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Montana’s Jon Tester voted in favor of Vance’s amendment on the mask mandate funding.
Vance contended that there shouldn’t be a “never-ending cycle of public health panic” over COVID which will be “with us for the rest of our lives.”
“The era of mask mandates caused a lot of problems,” he said. “It caused problems for our kids and caused developmental delays for school children. It caused a lot of rancor and a lot of division within our common American family. If people want to wear masks, of course, they should be able to. But if people don’t want to wear masks on airplanes, on transit, they should have that option as well. And that’s all that my amendment does.”
But Hawaii Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz saw the bill as “counterproductive,” noting that future variants of the coronavirus could be more dangerous. And Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey called it “little more than an attempt by Republicans to dismantle a public health infrastructure that had to be built in order to deal with this greatest pandemic since 1918.”