Congressional Republicans file lawsuit to end mask mandate for air travel

Seventeen Republican members of Congress, including Bob Good of Virginia, have sued the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seeking to end the federal rule requiring passengers on commercial flights and airports to wear masks.

The mandate unlawfully restricts lawmakers’ freedom and is not backed by legal authority, they said in the suit filed on Monday. They asked the court to intervene to lift the rule.

The CDC extended the airlift mandate last week until April 18. It was due to expire on March 18.

US Representative Thomas Massie and US Senator Rand Paul, both of Kentucky, are the first members listed on the lawsuit, which they filed in federal court in that state. Fifteen other GOP House members joined.

In addition to Good, they include: Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar from Arizona, Dan Bishop from North Carolina, Lauren Boebert from Colorado, Andrew Clyde and Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, Warren Davidson from Ohio, Brian Mast and Bill Posey of Florida and Matt Rosendale of Montana.

Members complained in the lawsuit that in the two years since public health measures began to curb the spread of the coronavirus, “Americans have been subjected to an increasing amount of government abuse. … This is a case seeking to remedy such excess.”

In a statement, Rosendale railed against “the alarmist narrative of COVID-19”.

“The CDC forced Americans to wear masks on commercial flights for two years without legal status,” Rosendale said. “A mandate is not law, and Congress has never passed legislation codifying the CDC’s mask-wearing requests.”

The members, who are paid $174,000 a year, also said the cost of purchasing the masks caused them “ongoing financial harm”.

CDC officials did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.

Mandates abolished

The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s legal authority to enforce the mandate at any time during the pandemic.

But it comes at a time of growing political pressure to end warrants of all kinds as the number of cases declines across the country. Several local and state governments, including those led by Democrats, have eased public health measures in recent weeks.

A quartet of Republican senators, including Roger Wicker of Mississippi, a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees air travel, held a press conference Tuesday to also call for an end of term.

The Republican opposition has highlighted the difficulty of enforcing remaining mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic as many others drop out.

“People can now sit side-by-side in restaurants across the country, mask-free,” Wicker said. “They can go to malls. Anywhere but an airport looks a lot like a mall to me.

Wicker added that constituencies involved in air travel, including airlines and flight attendants, were ready for the term to end.

Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma noted that masks are no longer required on school buses, but are on public transit.

“All we’re looking for is basic consistency,” he said.

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