Biden admin won’t enforce mask mandate on planes and trains after Trump-appointed judge’s ruling

US District Judge Kathryn Mizelle is one of the only federal judges to have been confirmed after the president who nominated her lost re-election

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Monday 18 April 2022 23:22 BST
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The Biden administration will stop enforcing a mask mandate for travel on planes and trains after a Trump-appointed federal judge ruled against the Centers for Disease Control’s order requiring face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

White House press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called the decision by a Florida federal judge “disappointing” and said federal officials were evaluating the ruling.

“TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation,” a Biden administration official said on Monday evening. The statement encouraged Americans to continue wearing masks on public transport.

“This is obviously a disappointing decision,” Ms Psaki said when asked about the ruling by US District Judge Kathryn Mizelle, who was confirmed by the Senate in the weeks between Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss and Joe Biden’s January 2021 inauguration has issued a ruling.

Ms Psaki added that the CDC “continues recommending wearing a mask on public transit” and said the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Department of Justice are “reviewing the decision,” with the latter agency making decisions about whether to continue to defend the mandate in litigation.

In her 59-page ruling, the Trump-appointed jurist concluded that the CDC mandate exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and was issued in violation of laws governing administrative rules by US agencies.

Judge Mizelle, who the then-Republican-controlled US Senate confirmed on party lines on 18 November 2020 despite her having received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, found that the CDC’s authority to “provide for ... sanitation” measures under the Public Health Service Act is limited to cleaning.

Her ruling granted a motion for summary judgement — a request for a case to be dismissed before trial — by a Republican-backed group called the Health Freedom Defence Fund, asking for the mandate to be overturned.

The order against the federal mask mandate is the latest attempt by a district judge appointed by Mr Trump to overturn one of the Biden administration’s policies, and comes after the CDC announced it would extend the mask mandate — which requires face coverings on interstate trains, busses, planes, and in airports, train stations and bus stations — until 3 May.

While many airline employees welcomed the mask mandate when it was first issued last year, a group of airline CEOs and at least one flight attendant’s union have asked the Biden Administration to end the policy in recent days.

Separately, a group of 21 Republican-led states and groups of pilots and flight attendants have asked federal courts to invalidate the mandate, which the Federal Aviation Administration says has been related to nearly 750 unruly airline passenger incidents this year alone.

The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.

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