Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appeared to back off his own previous calls for a nationwide mask mandate, saying during a Sunday evening interview that such a mandate might run into a “constitutional issue.”
Biden, who has been calling for a mask mandate since mid-August, raised the question of constitutionality with Dennis Welch, political editor of Arizona’s Family and host of “Politics Unplugged.”
Biden explained that he would instead attempt to set a standard that other Americans would follow.
Biden now says a national mask mandate is probably unconstitutional and he wouldn’t do it.
This is a full 180-degree reversal. pic.twitter.com/cSxo6Q5LCD
— Alex Marlow (@AlexMarlow) September 7, 2020
“Here’s the deal, the federal government…there’s a constitutional issue whether the federal government could issue such a mandate, I don’t think constitutionally they could, so I wouldn’t issue a mandate. But I’d plead with … I carry my mask with me wherever I go,” Biden said.
“I’d set an example,” Biden continued. “It’s about making sure the public is safe and secure, and that is a local decision, but there should be national standards laid out as to how it should be gone about. You can’t mandate that. But to set the example on what need to be done.”
The former vice president did not clarify how his “setting an example” would translate to all Americans following it.
Biden’s running mate, Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris, also walked back his initial call for a national mask mandate. Speaking with CNN’s Dana Bash in a prerecorded interview that aired Sunday, Harris said that a Biden administration would put forth a mask “standard” rather than a mandate — but also gave no guidance as to how that standard would be enforced. (RELATED: Kamala Harris Shies Away From Nationwide Mask Mandate As Biden Keeps Calling For One)
Neither Biden nor Harris clarified how this new call for a mask “standard” rather than an official mandate would differ functionally from the Trump administration’s policy, which is to recommend and encourage masks without mandating them.
“We are asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask,” Trump said during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing on July 21. “Get a mask. Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They will have an effect and we need everything we can get.”