Sen. Lee Speaks on Ending Federal Mask Mandate for Public Transportation

June 23, 2021

Mr. President,

In January of this year, the CDC ordered the mandatory use of masks on planes, trains, buses, and public transit of every kind, everywhere across the country. If Americans fail to comply with this mandate, they risk being fined or even criminally prosecuted.

Six months later, this mandate continues, with the CDC refusing to recognize its own research that the mandate is no longer defensible.

It’s now June. The vaccine has been available for months, COVID cases are plummeting, and the country is anxious to return to the way things once were.

The CDC itself has even said that vaccinated Americans don’t have to wear masks and can get their lives back to normal.

More than 45% of Americans are now fully vaccinated. States are lifting their restrictions, and in restaurants, stores, and workplaces across the country, it is no longer required to wear a mask. If Americans still want to wear one, they can make that decision for themselves.

But the CDC’s requirement that vaccinated individuals wear masks on public transit now blatantly contradicts the agency’s own policies and research. It needlessly promotes fear, and plays politics with Americans’ lives.

Not to mention, it has imposed absurd expectations and serious consequences on children and families trying to travel.

After the January mandate, the CDC issued a corresponding mandate that exempted only children under the age of 2, in keeping with their original mask-wearing guidance – guidance that is among the most stringent in the world.

What have been some of the results of this guidance?

Parents have been kicked off or banned from flights if their small children refuse to wear a mask. For parents of kids with disabilities, compliance has been nearly impossible.

We already know that children, especially young children, are unlikely to contribute to the spread of the virus.

What we do not know, however, is what scientific studies – if any – the CDC is basing this guidance on. In fact, several of my colleagues and I sent a letter to the agency with this very question two months ago, on April 22nd, and we have yet to receive an answer.

Mr. President, if the CDC actually believes in its own research, then it should act like it. And if it believes in the vaccines on which we have spent billions of taxpayer dollars, then it should act consistently and instill confidence in the American people, not fear.

And with the vaccine now free and widely available, Americans should be able to weigh the costs of the options before them and choose for themselves whether to receive the vaccine, whether to wear a mask, or whether to take their own precautions – free of mandates imposed by the government.

But if the federal government is going to have a say in whether or not this should be a mandate, it should be up to Congress – the branch elected by and held most accountable to the people.

To the extent that the CDC issued this mandate, it did so using authority delegated by Congress. We in Congress did not pass this mask mandate; and we do not have to defer to the bureaucrats who did.

The science shows that wearing masks should not be federal law… and we should act accordingly.

We can assert our rightful authority, and promote sound science and common sense, by supporting the bill before us today.