Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sunday walked back his pledge to impose a national mask mandate, admitting he wouldn’t be able to use the powers of the presidency to make face-coverings compulsory because that would actually be unconstitutional.
Biden was asked to respond to President Trump’s policy of giving more authority to the states during an interview with AZFamily’s “Politics Unplugged.”
“Well, I hope you could trust the governors, Biden said. “But here’s the deal, the federal government — there’s a constitutional issue whether federal government could issue such a mandate. I don’t think constitutionally they could, so I wouldn’t issue a mandate.”
However, as recently as last month, Biden was insisting that he would use federal power to impose a mask mandate.
“The one thing we do know is these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask. Anyone to reopen would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks,” Biden told a CNN affiliate in Pittsburgh back in June, (while wearing a black mask himself).
Pressed if he’d use federal power to mandate wearing a mask in public, Biden responded, “Yes, I would. From an executive standpoint, yes I would.”
Asked again if that meant he would “in effect” mandate mask wearing, Biden said, “I would do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public.”
Biden repeated his call for a mask mandate during his speech at the Democratic National Convention on August 20. “We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask — not as a burden, but to protect each other,” he said. “It’s a patriotic duty.”
On Sunday, however, Biden told AZFamily he would merely “plead with” people to wear a mask and continue to set an example by wearing one himself.
“I carry my mask with me everywhere I go,” he said.
Last month, Biden also called for an immediate, three-month-long nationwide mask mandate, claiming it would save tens of thousands of lives.
“It’s not about your rights. It’s about your responsibilities as an American,” said Biden, in contrast to the Republicans’ position that such a mandate would infringe on an individual’s rights.
“So let’s just institute a mass mandate nationwide starting immediately. And we will save—the estimates are that we will save 40,000 lives in the next three months once that is done,” he said.
Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said during an NBC “Today” show interview late last month that a nationwide mask mandate would be one of the Biden administration’s first priorities.
She immediately backed down, however, when asked how the mandate would be enforced.
“It’s a standard. I mean, nobody’s going to be punished,” she said. “Nobody likes to wear a mask, this is a universal feeling, right? So, that’s not the point,” Harris added.
Last week, when asked about his proposed national mask mandate, Biden denied that he had ever said such a thing—even though the proposal was a major feature of his DNC speech.
“No, no,” he said. “What I suggested was I would ask every person in authority” to impose one.
Regarding a federal mask mandate, Joe Biden backtracks, claiming now he is a “constitutionalist.” 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/Df1dCfawri
— George Revere (@george_revere) September 2, 2020
“I’m a constitutionalist,” Biden declared. “You can’t do things the Constitution does allow you the power to do.”
Polls have consistently shown that the American people support face-covering requirements, but Biden’s abrupt turn-around strongly suggests that the latest surveys show that the public is beginning to cool on masks.
2/ What's interesting: elite media outlets both press mask wearing and claim it has strong support aside from Fox News watching miscreants.
Then why would Biden walk away from a position he took under a month ago?
I wonder what the internal polling/focus groups really show.
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) September 8, 2020