In the latest of several steps he has taken to set himself apart from the majority of the Republican Party, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted against lifting a mask mandate for children as young as two who take part in the nation’s Head Start program.
The Biden administration requires “universal masking for all individuals two years of age and older” participating in the government-run preschool program. It also requires all employees, contractors, and volunteers who come into contact with children receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
An amendment offered by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) to the PREVENT Pandemics Act would “prevent HHS from implementing or enforcing their regulations regarding mask or vaccination protections in the Head Start program again.”
Video footage of the vote shows Romney became the only Republican member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to vote against the measure — including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who frequently deviate from the Republican mainstream. The former Republican standard bearer joined all HELP committee Democrats in striking down Braun’s amendment by a 12-10 vote.
“What a disgrace,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.
“Shame on @MittRomney and every senator in this room who just voted to keep toddlers in masks,” wrote Kelsey Bolar of the Independent Women’s Forum. “I am happy to bring my 2-year-old to meet with any one of you to show you how insane it is to ask parents to cover their 2-year-olds faces with a worthless piece of cloth.”
Romney’s vote helped cement the United States’ status as a global outlier on mask policy. The World Health Organization has stated: “Children aged 5 years and under do not need to wear a mask.” (Emphasis in original.) The European Centre for Disease Control states mask-wearing is “not recommended for students” in primary school, exempting all children under the age of 12.
Numerous studies have revealed the dearth of science behind mask mandates for children, especially toddlers. Even if masking were the best option, it would be impossible to find a respirator that fits children that young. Public health experts have admitted that “cloth masks are not appropriate for this pandemic,” and while researchers believe that N95 respirators offer the greatest protection against the transmission of COVID-19, the FDA notes that “N95 respirators are not designed for children … a proper fit cannot be achieved on children.”
Democratic governors began rolling back local mask mandates earlier this year, stating that “the science has changed.” Still, 37% of all U.S. public school districts still require compulsory masking of all students.
“It’s time to get our lives back especially based upon science and not the political science,” said Braun on Tuesday.
Romney’s lone vote became his latest deviation into Democratic ranks. On Tuesday, Romney also voted against a measure introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to abolish mask mandates on public transportation. “The resolution garnered bipartisan support, resulting in a 57-40 vote with eight Democrats voting in favor of the resolution,” The Daily Wire reported. “Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was the only Republican to vote against the resolution.”
Since his election to the U.S. Senate from his newly adopted home state of Utah, Mitt Romney has continually acted as a gadfly. He has marched with Black Lives Matter, voted twice to impeach former President Donald Trump, and called his fellow Republicans “morons.”