EXCLUSIVE: The effort to ban mask mandates on public transportation is gaining steam as the Association of Air Marshals has thrown its support behind calling on Congress to enact such a ban, something it says would “send a clear message” that airline crews and transportation workers should not be compelled to enforce masking policies on behalf of the U.S. government.
Fox News Digital obtained a letter sent to Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, by the group’s president, John Casaretti, applauding the “Freedom to Breathe Act,” which the senator introduced last Tuesday before it was ultimately blocked by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., on Thursday.
“We offer our emphatic support for this common-sense legislation,” Casaretti wrote, before mentioning his 2021 testimony before Congress about how masking requirements had contributed to an increase in violence on airplanes, and that crew members had “suffered direct physical attacks” while trying to enforce those requirements.
“The Air Marshal Association believes masking should be a choice, not a requirement. Air crews and transportation workers should never be compelled to enforce arbitrary policies on behalf of the government,” he wrote. “We support a permanent ban on masking requirements in public transportation, but believe that prohibiting masking requirements through December 31, 2024 will send a clear message.”
“The Air Marshal Association stands ready to assist your office in the passage of this important legislation. We look forward to working with your staff, and you can count on our enthusiastic support,” he added.
While shooting down Vance’s effort to pass the bill by a unanimous voice vote, a largely symbolic move, Markey argued that health officials needed the “freedom to make those decisions.”
“We must protect the freedom for communities to have every public health tool available, if it’s needed in the opinion of the public health officials in that community, in that state. They should be the ones making the decision at the local level, looking at the dangers to their population,” Markey said.
Had the bill been passed and signed into law, it would prevent President Biden and federal agencies from implementing face mask requirements for public transit passengers or students in schools until Dec. 31, 2024. It would also have prevented federal spending from being used to propose face mask requirements or force Americans to wear face coverings.
When reached for comment, a Vance spokesperson vowed the senator would continue pushing to pass the legislation by other means, and noted that a House version of the bill had been introduced by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
“Now that Senate Democrats have showed their hand and defended mask mandates, Senator Vance will continue to pursue every opportunity to ban them at the federal level,” the spokesperson said.
Fox News’ Kyle Morris and Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.