The Missouri Republican wants to block efforts to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus even while children remain the most vulnerable.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) wants to strip school districts of federal funding if they require students to wear masks or get the COVID-19 vaccine — even as the delta variant continues to tear through the country.
Hawley announced on Monday that he will introduce measures to restrict funding to schools over COVID safety precautions as part of 15 amendments he wants to tack to the budget resolution Democrats released earlier that day. Democrats are hoping to use the budget resolution to pass a major infrastructure bill that includes many of President Joe Biden's priorities.
Hawley's proposals come as states across the country are seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases, thanks to the highly contagious delta variant.
Cases among children have skyrocketed, with the American Academy of Pediatrics announcing on Aug. 5 they've seen a "substantial increase" in the number of children contracting the virus.
Doctors in hotspots including Florida and Louisiana — which are currently experiencing the worst outbreaks in the country — say they are seeing more and more children admitted to hospitals and intensive care units.
But Republican lawmakers like Hawley have been fighting efforts that public health experts say can end the pandemic.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy let slip that nearly one-third of Republicans in his caucus have refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine at all. And many House Republicans are also against wearing masks.
Doctors say masks are especially important now for kids ages 11 and under, as they are currently ineligible to receive the vaccine and thus do not have immunity.
It looks unlikely that Hawley's amendments will pass, as Democrats have a majority in the Senate.
However, Florida's GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has already threatened schools that require masks, saying they could risk state education funding for implementing the policy. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has made similar threats, saying that schools or businesses that require masks could risk fines.
Major school districts are already defying both DeSantis and Abbott, announcing mask requirements amid the surge of COVID-19 cases.
The Dallas Independent School District on Monday announced that it will require all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks in order "to protect staff and students from the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus."
And a handful of school districts in Florida are also defying DeSantis' ban on mask requirements, including Leon County schools, which includes Florida's capital of Tallahassee. Cases there are skyrocketing, and intensive care unit beds are nearly all full, according to data from the New York Times.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.