Ossoff, Warnock on Opposite Sides of School Mask Mandate

Recently, the Senate voted on a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act to effectively cancel a rule submitted in the Federal Register by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Congressional Review Act (CRA) provides a fast-track process in the Senate to consider a joint resolution to cancel a rule and prohibits the issuing agency from re-promulgating a rule that is substantially the same. (You can read more on CRA here and here).

Obviously, several controversial COVID-19-era policies have come under scrutiny, both through the courts and legislatively. The vaccine mandate for businesses issued by the Biden administration was struck down by the Supreme Court while lawsuits against vaccine mandates for federal workers and medical workers haven’t been successful. The Senate targeted the medical worker vaccine mandate in March through the CRA. While that joint resolution cleared the chamber, it’s unlikely that the House will consider it.

Mask mandates have also been targeted through the courts and in Congress. A lawsuit against the mask mandate airplanes and public transportation has seen success, to this point, and a joint resolution under the CRA passed the Senate with a noticeably strong bipartisan majority.

Earlier this month, the Senate voted on the a joint resolution under the CRA to cancel the “Vaccine and Mask Requirements To Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs” Rule issued by HHS. The rule requires that any child two years old and over who is in a Head Start-funded program wear a mask, even when outdoors. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr opposed the rule and urged the Biden administration to rescind it.

“As we have said time and again, the President does not have the authority to implement this type of widespread public health policy and to target our children makes it even more egregious,” Attorney General Carr said in March. “For legal and practical reasons, the Biden administration should immediately rescind this rule rather than continue with its short-sighted attempt to mask children as young as two years old. It is past time for this administration to acknowledge the concerns of families across Georgia and around the nation who are speaking out and asking for a sense of normalcy.”

The Senate passed the joint resolution, S.J.Res. 39, to disapprove the rule by a vote on 55 to 41. Interestingly, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Ralph Warnock (D-GA) were on opposite sides of the issue. Ossoff voted to cancel the rule while Warnock voted to keep it in place.

Considering that Democrats control the House, it’s unlikely that the House will consider S.J.Res. 39.

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