Biden wants to enact a national mask mandate, but has no legal authority to enforce such an order
12/06/2020 // Arsenio Toledo // Views

Democratic nominee Joe Biden is calling for a national mask mandate to fight the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). However, experts believe he may not have the legal authority to pass a sweeping mask order without any congressional action supporting it. The former vice president made this declaration during a meeting with the executive committee of the National Governor's Association on Thursday, Nov. 19.

“We discussed the implementation of a national mask mandate,” said Biden about the meeting. “10 governors, Democrat and Republican, have imposed masking requirements and recognized the need for universal masking… It's not a political statement, it's a patriotic duty.”

This meeting was conducted virtually. The National Governor's Association's executive committee is bipartisan and is chaired by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It includes five Republican governors, committee vice chair Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and the GOP governors of Utah, Massachusetts, Maryland and Alabama. (Related: Governor of Hawaii becomes a tyrannical monarch, threatens $5,000 fine and jail time for people who do not wear masks.)

This is the first time that Biden has publicly met with high-ranking Republican officials.

During the meeting, Biden also promised that he will not be implementing a massive economic lockdown similar to the one that was put in place earlier this year.

“I am not going to shut down the economy, period,” said Biden. “I am going to shut down the virus. That's what I'm going to shut down. I'll say it again: No national shutdown. No national shutdown.”


However, Biden did say that the American public should expect limited restrictions in certain jurisdictions based on the severity of their coronavirus outbreak.

“It's not shutting down, it's calibrating based on what the threat is.”

Joe Biden has no legal authority to enforce a mask mandate

A closer look at Biden's mask mandate policy shows that he does not actually have a plan to implement it nationwide. Instead, it outlines a way to get state and local leaders to enact mandates for the benefit of the federal government.

“A national mask mandate is not possible because public health powers belong to the states, not the federal government,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of Georgetown University's O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

“The federal government couldn't implement its own mask mandates, nor could it force the states to do it,” added Gostin.

Instead of a national mask mandate, Biden will most likely try to convince all of the country's governors to either implement statewide mask mandates or to maintain the mask orders they already have in place.

If this plan doesn't work, Biden's back-up approach is to approach local governments. During a town hall with ABC in October, he said, “I'd go to every local official and say ‘Mandate the mask.’ Say: ‘This is what you have to do when you're out. Make sure you encourage it being done.’”

Some experts believe that, while Biden may not have the legal authority to enforce a mask mandate in the absence of congressional action, if he were the president he may still try to enforce a mask order through other means, such as by forcing all federal employees to wear masks on the job and using the office of the presidency to coax and cajole people into wearing masks out of a sense of duty.

Biden could also try and enact a public service announcement campaign, similar to those done to warn the public about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

Thirty-seven states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have already instituted some kind of statewide mask mandate, and only one state, Mississippi, has lifted its mask order.

Learn more about how Democrats like Biden are using the coronavirus pandemic to advance a national mask mandate by reading the latest articles at

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