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Republican lawmakers sue CDC over commercial travel mask mandate

A group of U.S. senators and representatives, including Rand Paul, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, sued the CDC Monday in federal court to try to force the agency to withdraw its mask mandate for commercial travel.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (CN) ā€” A group of 17 Republican lawmakers, many of them vocal anti-maskers, sued the Centers for Disease Control and its director Monday, claiming its commercial travel mask mandate causes them financial harm because they must purchase a mask every time they use commercial airlines.

Thomas Massie, Rand Paul, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, among others, sued the CDC, Director Rochelle Walensky, and Chief of Staff Sherri Berger, in a Kentucky federal court Monday.

The members of Congress seek an order to set aside the "transportation hub" mask mandate, which the CDC issued on Jan. 29, 2021, and requires individuals who use certain forms of transportation to wear masks.

The lawsuit was filed in Massie and Paul's home state of Kentucky and claims the CDC lacked the authority to impose the mandate, which requires masks for all travelers on commercial airlines and in subway stations, among other forms of transportation.

Violations of the mandate can result in criminal penalties.

The complaint says the mandate is a burden on the elected representatives because of the frequency with which they travel for their jobs and also exacts a financial toll.

"The requirement to wear a mask pursuant to the mask mandate requires the members to purchase masks, causing them ongoing financial harm in the form of out-of-pocket expenditures for the purchase and use of each mask," the complaint states

According to the allegations in the complaint, the mandate exceeds the statutory authority of the CDC for three reasons, including that it amounts to a "blanket preventative measure" against all individuals ā€” regardless of whether they have an infectious disease ā€” that essentially creates a "general federal police power."

Additionally, the representatives claim a mask mandate is not enumerated in the statute cited by the federal government in defense of the measure and is "unlike any of the measures" listed there.

Finally, the suit says the mandate infringes on citizens' liberty interests, while the statute used to justify the order deals solely with "restrictions on property interests."

Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie released a statement with the lawsuit, which he said took on added significance after reports that President Biden plans to extend the mandate through April 18.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have the legal authority to force people traveling on commercial airlines to wear masks," said Massie. "Congress never passed a law requiring masks on commercial flights. This lawsuit targets the faceless bureaucrats who are behind the CDC's unscientific regulation so that this illegal mask mandate can be brought to a permanent end."

Congressman Dan Bishop from North Carolina said in the same statement that the mandate has "caused so much damage to this country."

"There was never any science behind their mandate, and now it's time for America to officially close the chapter on the CDC's political science charade. Iā€™m proud to join Rep. Massie in filing this lawsuit," he said.

Several of the lawmaker plaintiffs are no stranger to controversies involving mask mandates. Both Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Andrew Clyde of Georgia were recently fined for their refusal to wear masks on the House floor during the pandemic.

In January, The Hill reported that Clyde had been fined $500 dozens of times and had amassed more than $58,000 in total fines since the onset of the pandemic.

Massie and Marjorie Taylor Greene also sued Nancy Pelosi over the House mandate in July 2021 and called the rule an unconstitutional "edict."

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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