GOP senators celebrate ruling by Trump-appointed judge striking down transit mask mandate

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A Trump-appointed judge on Monday struck down CDC safety rules that helped curb COVID-19's spread.

Republican senators are lauding a decision by a federal judge to strike down the national mask requirements for airplanes, trains, buses, and other public transportation.

On Monday, United States District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed to her seat by President Donald Trump in 2020, issued a ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not act lawfully when it instituted the COVID-19 safety measure.

"It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of Covid-19," Mizelle wrote in her decision. "In pursuit of that end, the CDC issued the mask mandate. But the mandate exceeded the CDC statutory authority, improperly invoked the good cause exception to notice and comment rulemaking, and failed to adequately explain its decisions. Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in the pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate."

Mizelle is a member of the conservative legal group the Federalist Society and formerly served as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In November 2020, two weeks after Trump lost his reelection bid to President Joe Biden, the lame-duck GOP Senate majority pushed through Mizelle's confirmation on a party-line vote. The American Bar Association rated Mizelle, who was 33 years old at the time, "not qualified" due to her lack of relevant experience.

Republican senators, who had been pushing legislation to end the mask requirement along with other rules aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, cheered Mizelle's decision on Monday. The ruling came as new COVID-19 cases started trending upward again nationally with the rise of the omicron BA.2 subvariant.

"Judge Mizelle made the right call on striking down the @CDCgov’s unconstitutional mask mandates for travel," Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tweeted on Monday. "I've been fighting for this for months and we must continue doing everything possible to allow Americans to live freely and go back to normal."

"Finally some sanity," Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) tweeted. "Let freedom ring."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) took some credit for his role in getting Mizelle's ruling, praising himself for his role in putting her on the bench. "Almost two years ago I enthusiastically pushed Judge Mizelle to be a district court judge," he tweeted. "Today she issued a common sense decision that makes me especially proud that I did."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) tweeted on Monday that Mizelle's ruling "Shows why my work w Trump on judicial noms so important to protect indiv liberty/restraining govt overreach."

"Great news for freedom loving Americans," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) added. "Bad news for the petty tyrants who have imposed unscientific and burdensome COVID mask mandates on the American people for far too long."

Contrary to Cruz's claims, the mask requirements are well-founded in science.

An October 2020 Defense Department study found that it is "extremely unlikely" for COVID-19 to spread on airplanes if passengers wear face masks.

"The mask is very important in that the larger droplets that travel ballistically through the air will be caught by your mask," Navy Lieutenant Commander Joseph Pope, who helped conduct the study, said in 2020. "And if you don't have the mask on, then you cannot reduce those numbers of ballistic particles."

Another study, released this January by researchers at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, found that wearing masks on planes makes a "significant difference" in reducing viral transmission.

Non-U.S. airlines that have relaxed their mask requirements have seen staff shortages and had to cancel hundreds of flights because of subsequent COVID-19 outbreaks, CBS News reported last week.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.