Senate Democrats on Thursday opposed a request from Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, for floor consideration of his bill banning federal COVID-19 mask mandates.

The motion was blocked by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who claimed the legislation would “hamstring public health experts who guided our nation out of the pandemic.” Markey has a history of supporting mask mandates: In December 2020, he called states without mask mandates “dangerous” and promoted his Encouraging Masks For All Act, legislation asking states to implement mask mandates when social distancing is not possible.

“All of us have gone through the experiment of mandatory masking,” Vance said Thursday, before Markey blocked the motion. “Today, I want to make sure we do not subject the people to the tyranny for the sake of nothing.”

The opposition indicates that Democrats are open to imposing future mask mandates on American citizens, Vance’s office said in a release Wednesday: “Any floor objection to Senator Vance’s unanimous consent request would amount to a clear admission that Democrats intend to reimpose mask mandates in the near term.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sports a face mask during Senate Democrats’ news conference at the Capitol on Nov. 30, 2021. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images)

The Freedom to Breathe Act would ban all federal officials, including President Joe Biden, “from issuing mask mandates applying to domestic air travel, public transit systems, or primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools.”

“We tried mask mandates once in this country. They failed to control the spread of respiratory viruses, violated basic bodily freedom, and set our fellow citizens against one another,” Vance said in a statement earlier this week.

He added: “This legislation will ensure that no federal bureaucracy, no commercial airline, and no public school can impose the misguided policies of the past. Democrats say they’re not going to bring back mask mandates—we’re going to hold them to their word.”

Samantha Renck contributed to this report.

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