Romney Votes With Democrats On Preschool Mask Mandate

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted with the Democrats on the Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions (HELP) committee on Tuesday to uphold an administrative rule maintaining masking requirements for children as young as two years old participating in federal education programs.

The HELP committee was meeting to consider a Department of Health and Human Services rule imposing a masking mandate on Head Start participants. Head Start operates in every state under HHS supervision and is designed to help children up to age five of low-income families become more prepared to enter school.

The HHS rule went into effect last November and requires every Head Start participant from two years old up to maintain “universal masking” in order to combat COVID-19 transmission. Adult staffers and volunteers must be fully vaccinated in addition to following the masking rules.

Republicans on the HELP committee have taken steps to rescind the Head Start mandate. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) proposed an amendment that would stop HHS from enforcing any mandates on Head Start participants.

Braun’s amendment failed by a 12-10 vote, with Romney joining the Democrats on the committee. Moderate Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) supported the amendment, and Romney was the sole Republican on the committee to vote against it.

Other than Romney, Republicans on the committee argued for HHS rules to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which now say wearing masks in public is not necessary.

Braun told the committee members that after two years of mask mandates, President Biden in the State of the Union address said that the new guidelines mean most Americans can go maskless. Braun said he agreed with Biden and said it is time for citizens to get their lives back based on the actual science and not “political science.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that the Head Start rule is now really operating to punish kids. He said that telling Americans that their children are not spreading the disease and are not facing dangerous risks from COVID, but they must still wear masks is “insulting.” Paul said forcing masks on preschool-aged kids is “unscientific, inhumane, and is stunting their learning.”