Sen. Bill Cassidy on Sunday lambasted the Republican governors of Texas and Florida for banning local governments from issuing mask mandates.
Mr. Cassidy, Louisiana Republican and a gastroenterologist by training, was asked during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” whether such prohibitions were leading to a surge in coronavirus cases.
“I’m a conservative. I think you’re governed best when you govern closest to the people,” said Mr. Cassidy. “The local officials should have control here. I don’t want top-down [control] from Washington, D.C. … or from the governor’s office.”
Mr. Cassidy argued that governors should neither accept unquestioningly the advice of public health officials nor ”gratuitously ignore it.”
“When it comes to local conditions, if my hospital is full and my vaccination rate is low, and the infection rate is going crazy,” he said. “We should allow local officials to make those decisions best for their community.”
Several governors have moved to ban local governments from imposing mask requirements that differ from state law. The Republican governors of Texas and Florida, respectively, have been at the forefront of the push.
In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting local governments from imposing mask mandates. At the time, Mr. Abbott argued that cities and counties were overstepping their authority and burdening residents, despite Texas having made significant progress in defeating COVID-19 through “widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs and safe practices.”
“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities,” said Mr. Abbott. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had made a similar push. In May the governor signed legislation overturning all local coronavirus restrictions and emergency orders.
In July, Mr. DeSantis went a step further by issuing an executive order prohibiting school districts from requiring children to wear masks for in-person instruction.
“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures, there will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida,” said Mr. DeSantis.
The policies have been rebuked by teachers’ unions and Democratic mayors.
The tension between such groups conservative governors is nothing new. Since the mid-1990s, chief executives and municipalities have brawled over policy and authority.
In the past, for instance, governors have banned localities from raising the minimum wage to a level above that set by the state legislature.