The America Reopens Act—introduced on Thursday by Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R., Fla) and three other Florida Republicans—would halt all federal-level COVID restrictions, including the transportation mask mandate, such as those in effect for air travel. Any entity that receives federal funding would also be prohibited from requiring proof of vaccination and face coverings.
The bill is meant to codify similar policies being enacted at the state level, including Gimenez’s home state of Florida, where Republican governor Ron DeSantis has been at the forefront of abolishing COVID restrictions. The bill comes amid growing national opposition to COVID restrictions and signals that frustration is reaching a critical mass in Congress. Gimenez and supporters say it is well past time for Congress to step in and abolish Biden Administration regulations they see as draconian and increasingly unnecessary.
Reps. Byron Donalds (R., Fla.), Kat Cammack (R., Fla.), and Maria Elvira Salazar (R., Fla.) cosponsored the bill, and it is likely a large swath of Republicans will back it. The bill is also backed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, according to congressional sources. It is likely, however, to face an uphill battle in the Democrat controlled House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and her allies still advocate in favor of mask mandates and other measures. Many Democrat offices in the House remain vacant as staffers continue to work from home.
“America has made remarkable progress combating COVID-19. Millions of Americans have resumed their everyday lives—yet far too many refuse to abide by the science and have remained persistent on keeping outdated COVID-19 mandates in place,” Gimenez said. “It’s time for America to reopen.”
In addition to abolishing mask and vaccination mandates, the legislation would allow all American citizens and permanent residents to travel domestically across the United States mask-free without having to show any proof of COVID vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.
Those from Canada and Mexico seeking to enter the United States temporarily for business purposes would not have to show proof of a vaccine, including commercial truckers, many of whom recently garnered national media attention for protesting coronavirus restrictions in the United States and Canada.
The legislation would also prohibit federal funds from being used to develop, implement, and enforce any sort of COVID vaccine passport system, a measure that has been floated by the Biden Administration as part of its efforts to address the waning pandemic.
The effect of pandemic restrictions on the national education system also would be addressed. With many students still unable to access classrooms and in-person teaching, the bill would implement a new Education Department initiative that would offer grant money to students who do not currently have access to in-person instruction.
The program, which would be run by the Secretary of Education, would pay certain educational expenses and take its funding from leftover money allocated under the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion COVID relief package passed in 2020. ✪