U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis aren’t interested in more public health mandates requiring people to wear face masks.
The Wyoming Republicans have voted in favor of an amendment that has been successfully added to a Senate spending bill prohibiting the U.S. Department of Transportation from using any federal money to enforce mask mandates.
The amendment, which passed the Senate on a 59-38 vote, puts a contingency on any transportation program funding through the 2024 fiscal year, banning mask mandates for passenger airlines, commuter rail and rapid transit buses.
Airline travel was one of the areas where the most people were impacted by mask mandates. Because of the closed spaces and close quarters of commercial airplanes, many saw this one of the highest risks for spreading COVID-19.
“Today, the Senate took an important step in protecting the freedoms and rights of all Americans,” Barrasso said in a statement after the vote last week. “The federal government has no business mandating Americans wear masks on airlines or public transit.”
Lummis said mask mandates are “misguided and ineffective.”
“The passage of this commonsense amendment is a big win for states’ rights and I am glad we are one step closer to shielding the people of Wyoming from D.C. bureaucrats’ unfounded and heavy-handed federal mandates,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming, also said she's against mask mandates.
“We should all be 'following the science,' which has been clear on the failure of masks to stop COVID-19," she said in a Monday statement to Cowboy State Daily. "Anthony Fauci knew that from the start and continued to lie about it for three years. It is time to stop the insanity.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mask mandates are effective in curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, although many people question whether the health benefits are worth the enforced regulations, citing personal breathing problems and mental health issues stemming from the forced wearing of masks.
The CDC issued an order in January 2021 mandating travelers on public transportation hubs wear masks in alignment with President Joe Biden's executive action mandating them for any interstate travel. The order applied to airplanes, boats and ferries, buses and other public transit.
In April, a Florida federal judge ended the federal mask mandate.
The amendment was brought by Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio. Vance called the amendment’s passage "a massive victory for personal freedom." Ten Democrats also voted for the amendment, including Michael Bennet of nearby Colorado.
“Thanks to Senator Vance’s leadership, this amendment ensures people in Wyoming and across the country won’t be forced to follow impractical Washington mandates,” Barrasso said. “Senate Republicans will continue fighting to end unreasonable, one-size-fits-all rules from the federal government.”
Vance also introduced last month the Freedom to Breathe Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that would prevent the government from reinstating almost any mask mandate in response to COVID-19. Both Barrasso and Lummis co-sponsored the legislation.
During a September press conference for the bill, Barrasso said the CDC has lost “significant credibility” with the American public.
“We’ve had backtracking, flip-flopping, different agencies of the government saying different things on any given day,” said Barrasso, a medical doctor.
Critics of the bill, which has since stalled out, said it would undermine the ability of local governments to apply mask mandates as they see fit.
“I’m not mad about the mistakes of two years ago, I’m not going to point the finger and cast blame,” Vance said during a press conference for his bill. “What I will say is that we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned that mask mandates cause a lot of learning disabilities, a lot of speech problems, let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past, let’s not force that on our kids.”
Although there was a modest return to mask mandates in some areas in response to a short spike of COVID-19 cases early this fall, mask mandates have remained mostly isolated.
The spending “minibus” the mask ban mandate is included in is still being considered in the Senate and will move to the House if it passes.
If the amendment reaches the House, it will likely receive a favorable audience in the Republican-majority chamber.
U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the Vance amendment but has consistently opposed mask mandates during her time in office.
“The fact that governments and institutions are entertaining the idea of BRINGING BACK mask mandates, social distancing, lockdowns, and vaccine mandates is appalling,” she wrote in an August post on X. “It is an absolute disgrace and tragedy for Americans. It is totalitarianism. It is about control.”
Less than three weeks remain before government funding will expire Nov. 17 and lawmakers look to avoid having to pass a massive omnibus spending package before Christmas.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.