The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that could overturn the Biden administration’s mask mandate for small children in Head Start facilities, in a 55–41 vote.
“Even though most Americans stopped wearing masks in almost every setting, children are still required to wear masks all day long in Head Start locations. Current HHS guidance demands that kids wear a mask even if they are outside, and even if they are as young as two years old. After two years, the last thing we need is to continue these outdated pandemic policies that are hurting kids’ educations,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, describing the vote Tuesday night as bipartisan.
All Republican senators who were present voted yes on the measure, while Democrat Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), and Jon Tester (Mont.) joined them.
The bill will next head to the House of Representatives.
Head Start is a federal program that targets children from birth to age 5. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), masks were required for children aged 2 and older who are involved in the program as of November 2021.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.C.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said in an opinion article that the mandate is outdated and has angered parents.
“During the past year, parents have risen up across the country to have their voices heard at the local, state, and federal levels. This groundswell of organization and involvement from parents has become too large for Democrat politicians to ignore any longer, and it has begun to turn the tide against these oppressive mandates,” Thune, who sponsored the bill, wrote for Fox News this week.
Studies and data have shown that COVID-19, caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, poses an exceptionally low threat to children and namely small children, who have the lowest hospitalization and death rates among all age groups. Elderly people and individuals with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk of developing severe disease.
“There is plenty of data, however, demonstrating the harm that has been done to the children of America during this pandemic,” Thune added. “Students have fallen behind important benchmarks and had their behavioral development hindered. Young children are struggling with speech development and social skills. Parents don’t need to see the data, though. Many of them have been experiencing this reality firsthand.”
Tuesday night’s vote was the latest blow to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 masking rules and mandates. Last month, a federal judge in Florida issued an order striking down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s order that required masks on planes, trains, and public transportation, although the Justice Department later indicated it would appeal the ruling and the CDC restated its mask recommendation on Tuesday.