In a 57 to 40 vote, the U.S. Senate elected to repeal federal mask mandates for public transportation. Eight Democrats joined the 49 Republicans who voted in favor of the measure. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to vote against it.
While the resolution succeeded in the Senate, it will likely be stopped in the Democrat-controlled House. Even if it was to move through the House, President Biden would likely veto it upon arrival.
Some say that the reason the resolution received bipartisan support in the Senate was because five of the eight Democrats who voted in favor of the resolution are up for reelection this year, and mask mandates have not been popular with voters.
Health professionals argue, though, that we should not get ahead of ourselves by cancelling mask mandates. While it is important to listen to voters and to pay attention to public sentiment, neither should overshadow making the best decisions for people’s health and safety, according to Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a Pediatrician and Professor at Columbia University.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky forced the vote under the Congressional Review Act, though. The act gives senators leverage in their efforts to overturn federal regulation. It stipulates that senators can overturn regulations within a certain time frame and can do so with a majority threshold, not the typical 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia rejected Paul’s resolution and advised that his colleagues to do the same. Kaine argued that the federal mask mandates will expire on April 18 and that the Senate should both allow for their expiration and heed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to proceed afterward. Kaine’s words likely did not resonate with Paul, a strong opponent of mask-wearing since the onset of the pandemic.
Last year, Paul also voted in favor of a Congressional Review Act that aimed to nullify Biden’s vaccine mandate on private employers.