Even many who support the overseas mandate oppose the mandate domestically, such as the U.S. Travel Association.
On President Joe Biden’s second day in office, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) began mandating a negative COVID-19 test from any passenger arriving on an international flight. As of this writing, the same requirement has not been implemented for domestic flights as well, but Biden’s Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told HBO’s political news program Axios that he was considering such a move.
“There’s an active conversation with the CDC right now,” Buttigieg said in the interview. “What I can tell you is, it’s going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out. But here’s the thing: the safer we can make air travel, in terms of perception as well as reality, the more people are going to be ready to get back in the air.”
The CDC subsequently determined that they will not institute such a domestic mandate right now, noting that it would be logistically far more difficult, with an average of 691 international flights a day versus more than 12,000 domestic flights. However, it’s always possible the CDC could later reverse course if the virus gets worse.
What the bill does
A new bill would prevent the government from requiring a negative COVID-19 test for passengers on domestic flights, regardless of circumstances.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill would prevent such a big government mandate that would harm the already-struggling airline industry, which was down 67 percent in 2020.
“It is outrageous that the Biden administration is contemplating new regulations or guidelines to require passengers to undergo COVID-19 testing before domestic air travel,” Rep. Biggs said in a press release. “This is another unscientific, bureaucratic action designed to control Americans’ lives and increase dependence on government. Further, such a mandate would devastate the airline industry and destroy massive sectors of our recovering economy.”
“I fly domestically regularly each month, and I observe the efforts of the airlines to make each passenger safe,” Rep. Biggs continued. “The Biden administration should listen to the airline executives and heed the science of healthy air travel. This misguided idea should not become implemented policy under any circumstances.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that such a mandate for domestic flights could still potentially be a sensible public health measure, and shouldn’t be banned by law in case the government decides to implement it after all.
“To the extent that we have available tests to be able to do testing, first and foremost, I would really encourage people to not travel,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D. told CNN a few weeks ago when the agency was considering the domestic mandate. “But if we are traveling, this would be yet another mitigation measure to try and decrease the spread.”
“As part of the American Rescue Act,” President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package which is not yet law but which many congressional Democrats want to see enacted, “we [would] have a budget for a lot more testing,” Walensky continued. “I would really like to see much of that budget, and I think the Biden administration as well, to use it for high-risk activities. And one of those high-risk activities would be for travel and domestic flights.”
Odds of passage
The bill has not yet attracted any cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled chamber.