(The Center Square) – Democrats objected Thursday afternoon to unanimous passage of Sen. J.D. Vance’s proposed legislation that would ban federal mask mandates through the end of 2024.

Without unanimous passage, Vance’s bill must work through Senate committees before possibly being returned to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, objected on the Senate floor, saying the bill is a distraction and misleading, saying every health care option should be available to officials at the local level.

“This bill is a red herring. It’s a distraction. It’s misleading and it’s meant to distract what the GOP stands for right now, which is gimmicks,” Markey said. “They will make us less safe because they will be tying the hands of health care professionals.”

Vance, R-Ohio, said the legislation does not stop anyone from wearing a mask and allows local communities to make their own mask decisions. It would prevent a federal mandate.

“The legislation doesn’t prevent anyone from wearing a mask,” Vance said. “What I would like is for the freedom of a school child to not be thrown out of class because he doesn’t wear a mask. We are about to have some serious respiratory problems. We always do in the fall, and maybe it will be worse this fall and this winter than before. I think that what our children need is for us not to be chicken little about every single little respiratory problem. We cannot repeat the anxiety, the stress and the nonstop panic of the last couple of years.”

On Tuesday, Vance announced the proposed legislation that would stop any federal official, including the president, from implementing a mask mandate through the end of next year.

It would stop mandates for domestic air travel, public transit systems or primary and secondary schools, along with colleges and universities.

It would also stop airlines, transit authorities and educational institutions from refusing to serve anyone not wearing a mask.

Co-sponsors include Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming; Josh Hawley, R-Missouri; Eric Schmitt, R-Missouri; Mike Braun, R-Indiana; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming; Roger Marshall, R-Kansas; Ted Budd, R-North Carolina; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee; and Katie Britt, R-Alabama.

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