A bipartisan cadre of U.S. Senators has expressed impatience over the continuing federal mask mandate on airplanes, with Republicans attempting to end the mandate prior to its September expiration date.
U.S. Senators Express Impatience Over Mask Mandate On Airplanes
Earlier this week, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced an amendment to rail and safety legislation that would end the mask mandate ahead of its September 13, 2021 expiration date. On a party line vote, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee rejected the amendment.
Even so, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) also indicated his impatience with the mask mandate and urged a non-binding resolution from the Senate that would encourage the Biden Administration to “reconsider” the rule. Schatz noted:
“Sometimes they move slowly. Sometimes they’re a little too precautionary.”
Others, like Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) were not so diplomatic:
“I think we should express the sense of this committee that what is being foisted on us now in the name of science is hogwash.”
Later on in the day, Transportation Security Pete Buttigieg appeared at a Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee where he faced questions over the mask mandate from different U.S. Senators.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) asked Buttigieg why travelers could did not have to wear masks in crowded bars, but were forced to on airplanes. She cited a personal conversation with flight attendants suggesting that the continuing mask mandate was behind the recent surge in misbehavior onboard.
Buttigieg cited two reasons for the continuing mask mandate, including children onboard and the uniqueness of “a number of people from different places passing through the same small place.” While Buttigieg added that he was also impatient with the mask mandate, he indicated the mask mandate may be even more-opened ended.
“I share the impatience to be able to return to where they’re not required…This is something we need to continue to revisit. And while I haven’t seen a specific rubric that says if we hit this benchmark we can say goodbye to the masks, which we’re all eager to do, I do think it’s of course true that the sooner we get as many people as possible vaccinated, the sooner we can get there.”
While it is likely the current federal mask mandate will remain in place for air travelers until after Labor Day, growing impatience on both sides of the aisle suggests that a long-term mask mandate is likely unfeasible. Passenger behavior over the summer months will be a key indicator of whether the mask mandate continues into autumn.