Ted Cruz joins forces with other GOP lawmakers to call for an end to mask mandates for vaccinated travelers, ahead of Independence Day

Senator Ted Cruz without a mask on an escalator in the US Capitol
Sen. Ted Cruz reflects on a Capitol Hill escalator. Alex Brandon/AP Photo
  • A group of GOP senators on Friday asked the CDC to end federal mask requirements for travelers.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz said the guidelines were an “outdated and unnecessary mandate.”
  • The group introduced a three-page bill in the Senate on Thursday.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A group of Republican senators led by Ted Cruz on Friday announced a bill seeking an end to federal mask mandates for vaccinated travelers on planes, trains, and other public transport.

Mask requirements from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have outlasted their purpose, the lawmakers said.

The CDC in February recommended that travellers stayed home until they were fully vaccinated, but still required everyone to wear a mask while on public transport. The same was true for the TSA, which extended its requirement until September. Airlines have their own requirements, too.

“Americans should be able to travel to celebrate Independence Day with their friends and loved ones without having to follow an outdated and unnecessary mandate,” Sen. Ted Cruz said in a statement accompanying the bill.

In addition to Cruz, the GOP effort involved Susan Collins, Jerry Moran, Roger Wicker, Cynthia Lummis, and Marsha Blackburn. It came as states across the country continued loosening restrictions on daily life.

TSA mask mandates have led to altercations in airports and on flights, where cabin crews have had to deal with unruly passengers. Flight attendants have described “unprecedented” violence. The TSA in July will restart its self-defense training for flight crews.

Travelers wearing masks line up at an airport in Colorado.
Masked travelers at Denver International Airport. David Zalubowski/AP Photo

A frequent flier last week sued seven airlines, saying vaccinated travelers should be able to fly without masks.

The resolution, introduced in the Senate on Thursday, said the CDC could incentivize more people to get vaccines by dropping the mask requirement.

The three-page text said that getting rid of the mask mandate “would be instrumental in helping the economic recovery of the United States by boosting travel and benefitting the travel and tourism industries without sacrificing public health.”

In late May, the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, said the mask requirement on public transit was a “matter of safety, but it’s also a matter of respect” for flight crews.

The World Health Organization in a Friday press briefing said vaccines alone won’t end the pandemic. The organization urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks.

Collins in a statement said she’d spoken with flight attendants about the mandate. The senator said she’d heard about “horrendous and unthinkable violence” on recent flights.

If vaccinated people on the ground no longer need masks indoors, then fliers don’t need them either, Collins said.

“It makes no sense that someone can go to a restaurant without wearing a mask, but they cannot fly on an airplane without one, even though it has a far better ventilation system,” she said.