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Millionaire GOP lawmakers say wearing masks on flights causes 'ongoing financial harm'

A group of Republicans is suing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over masks.

By Emily Singer - March 15, 2022
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

A group of more than a dozen Republican members of the House and Senate filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, claiming that the federal mask mandate for airplane travel violates their “constitutional rights.” They also said the requirement causes them “ongoing financial harm” because they have to purchase masks.

“On its face and as applied, the Mask Mandate violates Members’ right to be free from unlawful regulations, and Members will be irreparably harmed unless this Court enjoins Defendants from enforcing the Mask Mandate,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), joined by 15 other members of the House and Senate.

Even though major studies have found that masks help stop the spread of COVID-19, the lawsuit claims that there is not enough evidence to suggest masks are useful.

“The Mask Mandate states that ‘[m]asks help prevent people who have COVID-19, including those who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, from spreading the virus to others,’ but provides no findings that show masks have limited the interstate spread of COVID-19 through conveyances and transportation hubs,” the lawsuit reads.

However, research has shown that masks are a low-cost and effective way to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which is transmitted through airborne droplets.

The CDC links to a number of these studies on its own website, including one study from Stanford Medicine and Yale University that found 1 in 3 symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 were avoided when surgical masks were used in a population over 60 years old. The study was conducted in Bangladesh from November 2020 through April 2021.

“Mask distribution and promotion was a scalable and effective method to reduce symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections,” the study found.

The CDC writes on its website:

At least ten studies have confirmed the benefit of universal masking in community level analyses: in a unified hospital system, a German city, two U.S. states, a panel of 15 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as well as both Canada and the U.S. nationally. Each analysis demonstrated that, following directives from organizational and political leadership for universal masking, new infections fell significantly.

Upon filing the lawsuit, the signatories put out a news release that also includes lies about the effectiveness of masks.

“The CDC’s mask mandate does not protect public health and is beyond the agency’s statutory authority,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), one of the members who filed the suit, said in the release.

“The CDC’s arbitrary mask mandate has caused so much damage to this country,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) said in the release. “There was never any science behind their mandate, and now it’s time for America to officially close the chapter on the CDC’s political science charade. I’m proud to join Rep. Massie in filing this lawsuit.”

The lawmakers also claimed to be harmed by the mask mandate on airplanes because of the financial burden it imposes.

“The requirement to wear a mask pursuant to the Mask Mandate requires the Members to purchase masks, causing them ongoing financial harm in the form of out-of-pocket expenditures for the purchase and use of each mask,” the lawmakers wrote in their suit.

Members of Congress earn an annual salary of $174,000.

And some of the members who signed on to the lawsuit are wealthy.

To name just a couple of examples: Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) is worth between $7 million and $32 million, according to Montana Public Radio; and Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) is worth from $5.5 million to $43.4 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A search on Amazon found that a pack of 100 surgical masks costs $11.99, or 12 cents per mask.

Many of the lawmakers who signed on to the lawsuit have been railing against COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including mask and vaccine mandates, since the early days of the pandemic.

In May 2021, Massie — who was unvaccinated at the time — led a protest of nearly a dozen GOP lawmakers on the House floor.

“We’ve had enough,” Massie tweeted at the time. “We are refusing to wear our masks on the floor during this vote in spite of Pelosi’s threat to take $500 from each of us. Her rule is not based on science. All you need to know is the mask rule has only ever applied to members when they can be seen on TV!”

In fact, three of the lawmakers who were part of that protest — Reps. Massie, Norman, and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — just lost another federal lawsuit that sought to overturn the tens of thousands of dollars in fines they incurred for violating mask mandates on the House floor.

A federal judge tossed that lawsuit on Wednesday, saying that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — whom the members were suing — can’t be sued for actions taken in her government capacity, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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