Was the executive order a critical public safety measure, or a violation of Americans’ individual rights?
The results are clear: according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), masks work, though they advise that masks must be combined with social distancing for full efficacy.
Within his first two days as president, Joe Biden issued two executive orders that collectively require the use of masks on federal lands and federal buildings, and interstate travel including airports, airplanes, and trains.
This order leaves plenty of spaces unaffected because the U.S. president likely lacks legal authority to issue a nationwide mask mandate for all people in all public spaces. (Although it’s possible, albeit unlikely, that federal courts could uphold the constitutionality of such a move during this declared public health emergency.)
What the bill does
The No Mask Mandates Act would overturn Biden’s two executive orders, allowing people to go maskless on federal property, federal buildings, or interstate travel.
It was introduced in the House on January 21 as bill number H.R. 375, by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO3).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that the executive order was yet another example of government intruding on people’s personal decisions, without actually eliminating the pandemic.
“The Biden administration is already headed in the wrong direction. Instead of focusing on reopening our economy and getting Americans back to work, this president wants more mandates,” Rep. Boebert said in a press release. “Continued federal overreach won’t end the COVID-19 pandemic or put food on the table.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the move is a necessary public health measure during a global pandemic and national emergency.
“It is the policy of my administration to halt the spread of [COVID-19] by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures,” President Biden said in the opening paragraph of his executive order. “Such measures include wearing masks when around others, physical distancing, and other related precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
“Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives,” Biden continued.
Odds of passage
The bill has not yet attracted any cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled chamber.