Biden Urged to Drop Travel Mask Mandate Despite Rise in Cases

  • Mask requirement for planes, trains set to end April 18
  • GOP says mandate out-of-step with other federal guidance

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The Biden administration faces increasing pressure to end the mask mandate on airplanes, trains, and ships despite signs of an uptick in Covid-19 cases.

Top Republican lawmakers on committees that oversee transportation on Friday renewed their calls for President Joe Biden to rescind or not extend the mask mandate, which expires April 18. Travel groups have also been pushing for the mandate to end.

The administration recently extended the mask mandate on public transportation for another month, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formulates a policy for how and when mask rules should be eased.

“The Administration’s policies should reflect nothing less than steadfast support for the transportation sector’s rapid recovery,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Travelers at O’Hare International Airport on March 11, 2022, in Chicago.

Opinions on the transportation mask mandate have been mixed, with some Democrats advocating to keep it, while others joined Republicans in the Senate to pass a largely symbolic resolution (S. J. Res. 37) last month to end it. But a new wave of Covid-19 cases, affecting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a range of other lawmakers, could complicate the Biden administration’s decision.

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New Variant Emerges

Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) asked the CDC and the Transportation Security Administration last week to extend the mandate again.

“The emergence of a new and even more transmissible variant only confirms that COVID remains a serious, ongoing danger,” Markey wrote.

The Republicans, in contrast, wrote to Biden that last month’s extension of the mandate “ran counter to your public health agency’s announcement that most Americans could forego wearing a mask indoors.”

Signatories include Reps. Sam Graves (Mo.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Garret Graves (La.), ranking member on the aviation subcommittee; and Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Ted Cruz (Texas), ranking member of the aviation subcommittee.

Almost two dozen states sued last month to overturn the federal mask mandate on transportation, arguing the administration lacks the authority to force traveling passengers to wear face masks.

Airline CEOs Urge Biden to Drop Mask, Foreign-Traveler Mandates

The American Bus Association and Airlines for America also both wrote to Biden last month asking to end the mandate on transportation, saying that it would help industries recover.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at; Anna Yukhananov at

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