Senate Blocks Funding For DOT Mask Mandate

In a bipartisan vote last week, the US Senate approved an amendment proposed by Ohio Republican J.D. Vance to bar the Department of Transportation from using federal funds to enforce mask mandates, the Washington Examiner reported.

The Senate approved the amendment 59 to 38, with nearly a dozen Democrat senators joining Republicans to prevent funding federal mask mandates on any mode of transportation in FY2024. Among the Democrats voting in favor of the amendment were red-state Democrats up for reelection next year, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Montana’s Jon Tester.

Senator Vance in a statement described the amendment’s approval as “a massive victory for personal freedom in this country.” He said after the “countless abuses to authority” during the pandemic, the US Senate took a step “toward common sense and individual liberty.”

Vance’s amendment echoes a bill the Ohio Republican introduced in September that would have barred the reinstatement of federal mask mandates. However, that legislation was more broadly written to ensure that no federal entity, public school, or commercial airline could reimpose a mask mandate in the future.

Currently, the Senate is working its way through 41 amendments to the $280 billion appropriations package to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and military construction.

Last Tuesday, senators reached an agreement to bring three of the 12 appropriations bills up for amendment votes.

Senate Appropriators Patty Murray of Washington and Susan Collins of Maine are working on passing the package of appropriations bills, including the other nine FY2024 funding bills to help influence the process as the Senate will likely face a broader appropriations standoff with Republicans in the House.

The federal government will face another shutdown deadline on November 17 if Congress fails to pass the appropriations bills. Talks are currently underway about another possible continuing resolution to buy more time for further negotiations.