DOJ appeals federal decision on transport mask mandate
The Justice Department on Wednesday appealed a federal judge’s ruling that overturned the mask mandate for public transportation, following a recommendation from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It is the CDC’s continuing assessment that, at this time, an order requiring masking in the domestic transportation corridor remains necessary for public health,” the CDC said in a statement. “The CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine if such an order remains necessary. The CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within the CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.
Following Monday’s ruling, the Justice Department had been considering whether to fight a court ruling that caught much of government, the airline industry, local transportation services off guard in common and ordinary Americans. The appeal means the administration will head to a higher court to extend the mandate — despite the fact that many airlines and transit systems have already decided to make masks optional following the court ruling.
The Justice Department’s appeal filings did not immediately include a stay request to suspend the court order and restore the mask mandate, a standard measure in emergency circumstances.
This is an indication that the legal effort is less about current Covid-19 conditions and more about trying to preserve CDC authority in the future.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaking to CNN+’s Chris Wallace on Wednesday night, said the call was important to preserve the CDC’s future public health authority.
“It’s important for two reasons: One, because we think it’s entirely reasonable, as does the Justice Department, that the CDC, health and data experts — health experts especially in our administration – may have this time to evaluate. But also because they want to fight to ensure that the CDC’s authority and ability to issue warrants in the future remains intact,” Psaki said.
She added: “We know there will be ups and downs in this pandemic, we are all ready for it to end. But we want to make sure our public health experts are able to take action. , if necessary, in the future.
The appeal is a risky move that could limit the government’s ability to carry out similar mandates in the future. If the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which oversees appellate challenges from Florida, where the federal judge who overturned the warrant sits — upholds the ruling overturning the warrant, it would be a precedent for all other federal courts in that circuit. , which covers the southeast.
DOJ attorneys tasked with defending the authority of the CDC’s mask mandate have warned Biden administration officials that continuing to push the legal fight over the mask mandate could backfire, if the appeals court rules. conservative tendency confirms the order.
The case could then be appealed to the Supreme Court, where conservative justices have ruled against Covid-19 measures since the start of the pandemic. In January the High Court struck down a vaccine requirement for large businesses and last summer it overturned a moratorium on evictions. A Supreme Court ruling upholding the decision to overturn the mask warrant would make the Florida judge’s findings regarding the CDC’s authority binding nationwide.
Earlier Wednesday, PSAKI said Americans had a “choice” whether or not to wear a mask on an airplane following a court ruling banning the federal mask mandate on planes, trains and other public transportation.
“People are not legally required to wear masks. So it’s a time when it’s up to the people, it’s their choice,” Psaki told reporters, adding later that the administration continues to recommend “everyone wear masks on an airplane.” according to US Centers for Disease Control guidelines. and Prevention.
Asked Tuesday about President Joe Biden’s comments that people should decide for themselves whether to wear masks on an airplane, PSAKI said Biden was “literally answering the question,” reiterating that the White House is not in charge. agreement with the judge’s decision and that Biden and others traveling with him would continue to wear a mask in flight.
“We are not implementing the mask mandate due to the court order, which we disagree with, while it still meets CDC guidelines. So we recommend that Americans do it across the country. They always recommend people wear masks on planes,” Psaki said, noting that travelers aboard Air Force One on Tuesday during a trip to New Hampshire all wore masks.
PSAKI said public polls “don’t actually show there’s a universal view of people getting rid of masks,” but that it “doesn’t matter” to the White House as it takes its decisions “based on public health and data.”
Biden’s Justice Department said Tuesday it would appeal the court’s decision that overturned the federal mask mandate for travelers — but only if the CDC determines the mandate is still necessary to protect public health.
Prior to the Florida judge’s ruling, the Biden administration had extended the mask requirement on planes, trains and inside airports through May 3. The CDC needed to assess whether the warrant was still needed, and Psaki later suggested the assessment could be completed by May 3.
“I expect you to hear back from the CDC very soon. And I don’t think it’s 15 days from now, in terms of waiting and asking for a call,” Psaki said.
Emphasizing why the Justice Department did not immediately appeal the decision or seek an emergency stay, PSAKI pointed to the CDC’s need to gather more data on the BA.2 subvariant of Covid-19, the initial reason for the term extension last week.
This story was updated with additional developments on Wednesday.