Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been talking a lot about mandating mask-wearing lately — but he can’t seem to make up his mind on the details.
As the Washington Examiner pointed point out, the former vice president pledged last month that he would institute a national mask mandate if elected. Most recently, however, Biden said that he would not have the authority to “mandate people wearing masks” except on federal property.
Position shifts from week to week
Fox News quoted the former vice president as saying in June that he would use executive authority to enforce a national mask mandate.
“Yes, I would from an executive standpoint, yes I would,” he told reporters when asked if he would employ “federal leverage” to make masks compulsorily. “I would do everything possible to make it required the people had to wear masks in public.”
Yet the network reported that by August he had shifted his position, saying during a campaign stop in his home state of Delaware, “Every governor should mandate mandatory mask wearing.”
“What I would be doing is putting as much pressure as I could on every governor,” he continued, adding, “every mayor, every county executive, every local official, and everyone in business, putting pressure on them to say, ‘What you’re doing is irresponsible. Make sure you wear a mask and maintain social distancing.’”
“I’m a constitutionalist”
By September 2 the Washington Examiner reported that Biden appeared to be backing off his earlier claims of having the authority to push a country-wide mask rule, saying, “I’m a constitutionalist.”
However, he seemed to have changed his mind again last Wednesday when he stated, “There’s a question — I think it can be answered in the positive — a question whether I can mandate over state lines that every single state has to comply.”
But that pronouncement was followed by yet another flip-flop the very next day in which he conceded, “I cannot mandate people wearing masks.”
“On federal land, I’d have the authority. If you’re on federal land, you must wear a mask. In a federal building, you must wear a mask, and we could have a fine for them not doing it.”
If or when that position will change remains to be seen, and the former vice president is evidently unwilling to offer further information at this time.
The Washington Examiner’s Emily Larson reported on Saturday that “Biden’s campaign did not return an inquiry seeking further clarification on what form any potential legal action from a Biden administration on mask-wearing would take.”