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Biden walks back federal mask mandate citing constitutional concerns

Biden walks back federal mask mandate citing constitutional concerns

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden boards an airplane to travel to Michigan at the New Castle County Airport on September 09, 2020, in New Castle, Delaware. | Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is walking back his claim to implement a national mask mandate if he were elected.

In a Sunday interview with AZFamily’s “Politics Unplugged," Biden said that there are “constitutional issues” with a federal mask requirement.

“But here’s the deal, the federal government — there’s a constitutional issue whether the federal government could issue such a mandate. I don’t think constitutionally they could, so I wouldn’t issue a mandate,” Biden continued. “It’s about making sure the public is safe and secure, and that is a local decision but there should be national standards laid out as to how it should be gone about. You can’t mandate that.” 

In June, Biden said that he would use executive power to implement a national mask mandate. In an interview with KDKA’s Ken Rice, he said that he would do “everything possible to make it required the people had to wear masks in public.”

Biden: I would go back to making sure that everybody had masks, that you had PPE lined up, making sure we stockpile all the things that we need and we don’t have now. The one thing we do know, these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody in public be wearing that mask. Anyone to reopen, it would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks.
Rice: Couldn’t you use your federal leverage to mandate that?
Biden: Yes.
Rice: Would you?
Biden: Yes, I would from an executive standpoint, yes I would.
Rice: So you would, in effect, mandate the wearing of masks?
Biden: I would do everything possible to make it required the people had to wear masks in public.

Last month, Biden’s vice president pick, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., defended Biden’s position but called it a “standard” that would not be enforced with punishment.

“It's a standard. I mean, nobody's going to be punished,” Harris said to TODAY’s Craig Melvin. “Nobody likes to wear a mask. This is a universal feeling, right? ... The point is this: What we, as responsible people who love our neighbor, we have to just do that right now. God willing, it won't be forever. But this is a sacrifice we have to make.”

President Donald Trump has opposed a national mask mandate, saying he wants "people to have a certain freedom, and I don’t believe in that." While encouraging people to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, his administration has argued that mask mandates should be left to the states. 

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