Biden DOJ Appeals Ruling Eliminating Travel Mask Mandate

Joe Biden’s Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in the U.S. District Court in Tampa on Wednesday seeking an order to overturn an order issued on Monday striking down the federal mask mandate for public transportation.

U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle issued the order at the beginning of the week that initiated a nationwide block on the mandate issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) applying to every traveler age 2 and above. The CDC had extended the mandate a number of times, most recently through May 3.

Judge Mizelle, who was appointed by President Trump in 2020, determined that the CDC violated the Administrative Procedures Act and acted outside the scope of its legal authority in enacting the “arbitrary and capricious” mandate.

Later on Monday, the Biden administration confirmed that the ruling meant that the CDC transportation mask mandate is “not in effect at this time.” Although the federal government recommended that travelers continue to wear masks, airlines and other carriers immediately began telling passengers and staff that they were no longer required to mask up.

The notice filed on Wednesday came only minutes after the CDC decided to ask the Justice Department to seek an appeal from Judge Mizelle’s order.

The CDC issued a statement on Wednesday that said its latest assessment indicates that “indoor transportation corridor” masking is still necessary to protect public health. The statement added that the agency believes its mandate is lawful and “well within CDC’s legal authority.”

The notice of appeal filed this week does not indicate whether the Biden White House will ask the federal appeals court for an emergency stay from Judge Mizelle’s order so that it may reinstate the mandate.

As usual, the messaging from the White House has been confusing, thanks largely to impromptu statements from the president. Biden suggested that passengers should individually decide whether to wear face coverings while traveling. The White House is continuing to require anyone flying on Air Force One to wear a mask following Monday’s ruling.

When Biden was asked a question on Thursday about the decision to lift enforcent of the Title 42 public health order applying to illegal immigration at the southern border, he rambled into a discussion of the appeal of the order blocking the CDC masking rule.

The decision to appeal has struck many as impractical now that travel is returning to more normal procedures. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told NBC that he believes it is “very unlikely” that an enforceable mask mandate will return “anytime in the foreseeable future.”