One would result in civil penalties and fines through a heavy-handed TSA and the other would support personal liberty and economic freedom.
It is the tale of two ideologies summed up in two very different approaches on just how the government should continue to respond to COVID this holiday season.
Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson (D) wants the government to step up enforcement on mask wearing for U.S. travelers while the state’s senior U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R) wants President Joe Biden to withdraw his mandates in favor of easing travel restrictions and helping workers keep their jobs.
Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Chairwoman of the Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee, proudly announced that after pressing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the agency has stepped up enforcement of federal COVID mandates for travelers to wear masks in transportation settings.
“We are pleased that TSA has been increasing enforcement of the Federal mask mandate for transportation settings – both in terms of number of enforcement actions and dollar amount,” Thompsons and Coleman said in a joint statement today. “However, TSA needs to continue to increase enforcement to ensure violators face consequences. These actions are critical to hold offenders accountable, discourage unacceptable behavior, and deter potential threats that put both travelers and the frontline TSA workforce at risk.”
Note the wording used in that quote from the two Democrats:
- Increase enforcement
- Unacceptable behavior
- Potential threats
It reveals how the two Congressional Democrats view the American people and the role the government should play even as the pandemic wanes with nearly 70% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine and 55% with both.
In a letter to the Committee, TSA Administrator David Pekoske wrote that as of November 1, 2021, TSA has issued 2,310 Warning Notices and 199 Notices of Civil Penalty for mask mandate violations. Additionally, TSA has doubled the fines for mask noncompliance and broadened the list of factors that can cause an individual to qualify for a civil penalty. TSA wrote that it also temporarily suspends PreCheck access for individuals who receive a warning or fine.
Compare Thompson’s request with that of Senator Wicker’s recent comments.
According to the Washington Post, Monday was the deadline for federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The WP article on Monday – “Air travelers encounter long security lines at National despite revamped checkpoints” – prompted a tweet on Wednesday from the Mississippi Senator.
“Travelers are facing long lines at the airport this holiday season,” Senator Wicker wrote. “President Biden’s vaccine mandates could make the delays even worse next year. The President should withdraw his mandates before they wreak havoc on our economy.”
The TSA told the Post that 93 percent of its workers were in compliance with the deadline for the federal employee vaccine mandate and exemption requirements.
“Employees who don’t comply could face termination, but the agency said the mandate would not affect holiday travel,” the Post reported.
Senator Wicker also penned an Op-Ed in July calling on President Biden to end the mask mandate on airplanes.
“Americans who have recently set foot in an airport or a train station probably felt like they were stepping back in time. Although the pandemic is subsiding and masks are no longer required in most settings, those who wish to board a plane or a train are still being forced to wear masks – even if they are fully vaccinated,” Wicker wrote. “Passengers are being instructed to keep their masks on even while eating and drinking – ‘between bites and sips’ – as if doing so would actually stop the virus from spreading. Those who refuse to comply risk losing their seats, being denied service in the future, and even being fined. Americans are getting fed up with these overbearing rules that have no basis in scientific fact.”
Wicker said the nationwide policy is totally unnecessary given the positive trends we are seeing.