Facing criticism for his disastrous pullout of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden has instead turned his sights to fighting another war: the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the administration’s Transportation Security Administration announced that it would be extending Biden’s mask mandate through next year — until at least January 18, 2022. As one of his first acts in office, Biden enacted the federal mask mandate covering air, train, and bus transportation in the United States.
“The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” a TSA spokesperson said, Reuters reported.
“The mask mandate has been controversial and has led to many encounters between passengers who don’t want to wear a mask and flight attendants asked to enforce the rule. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that airlines have reported 3,889 incidents involving unruly passengers this year, and 2,867 — or 74% — involved refusing to wear a mask,” reported the Associated Press.
The agency’s mask mandate fell out of line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year, when the health agency stated that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks except on rare occasions. However, those guidelines were later revised, putting back in place more restrictions and urging fully vaccinated people to wear a mask indoors.
Regulations by the CDC and TSA have not been without their detractors. Republicans in Congress have pushed back on the guidance and regulations, with Sens. Ted Cruz and Kevin Cramer introducing legislation last week to ban mandatory masking and vaccine regulations.
Cruz wrote in a statement:
Thanks to vaccinations and the natural immunity of Americans who have recovered from COVID-19, America is reopening. America is recovering, our kids are going back to school, and small businesses are returning as our nation’s economic heartbeat. At the same time, President Biden is imposing unscientific and burdensome mandates to control Americans’ lives.
We as a country have taken extraordinary steps to defeat this disease, and I’m proud we’ve taken these steps. Unfortunately, we have also imposed enormous harms on our economy and people’s lives and livelihoods, and we need to balance all of this appropriately. My view on vaccines is simple. I got the vaccine because it was the right choice for me. But I also believe in individual freedom. No one should force anyone to take the vaccine-including the federal government or an employer. Americans should have the choice to make their own medical decisions in consultation with their doctor.
To protect the rights and privacy of Americans, I’ve introduced legislation that would prohibit federal COVID mandates. This means no mask mandates, no vaccine mandates, and no vaccine passports. My legislation also provides civil rights protections for employees from their employers, to stop discrimination based on vaccination status. The American people must have the freedom to exercise personal choice when it comes to protecting their health and the health of their families.