Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said during a CNN appearance on Sunday that a Biden administration would not institute a mask mandate – a considerable change from the Democratic convention, when Biden promised one – instead saying they would set a “national standard” on mask-wearing.
Asked in June if he would use “federal leverage” to mandate mask wearing, Biden said he would “would do everything possible to make it a requirement” from an “executive standpoint.”
In one of his first joint campaign appearances with Harris after she was chosen in August, Biden called for a “mask mandate nationwide starting immediately” – which Harris said is “what real leadership looks like” – a position he reiterated at the Democratic Convention.
But during a press conference on Wednesday, Biden stepped back from that position, conceding he doesn’t know whether a mask mandate by executive fiat would be constitutional and calling himself a “constitutionalist,” instead saying he would put “pressure” on state, local and business leaders.
Harris joined him in that position in an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, saying that “leaders must lead,” by setting “standards,” which she said Biden would do in lieu of a legal requirement.
Harris clarified that the standard would not be about “punishment” or “big brother,” but asking Americans to “make the sacrifice” of wearing a mask “in the interest of loving our neighbor.”
Pressed further on the enforceability of such a standard with hostility from Republican governors, Harris took aim at Donald Trump’s opposition to masks for much of the early stages of the pandemic, saying he “made it a partisan issue” and that she “hopes” and “prays” it wouldn’t be one under a Biden presidency.
Harris would not say whether she would take a coronavirus vaccine put out by the Trump administration, instead expressing distrust of Trump and concern that he’s exerting political pressure on public health experts to rush out an untested vaccine. “There’s very little we can trust that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth,” she said. “So no, I would not trust his word. I would trust the word of public health experts and scientists, but not Donald Trump.”
The question of taking a vaccine seems to be a difficult one for the Biden campaign, with campaign senior advisor Symone Sanders not answering on Fox News Sunday whether Biden would take a vaccine.
Harris expressed concern about Russian interference in the 2020 election, citing her experience on the Senate Intelligence Committee to claim that they are at the “front of the line” among nations seeking to influence the election. She also said she believes “theoretically” that Russian interference could cost her and Biden the White House.
The Trump campaign seized on Harris’ comments on masks, accusing her of flip-flopping on the issue. “Kamala Harris… Tried to walk back her plans for a mask mandate,” tweeted Trump campaign rapid response director Andrew Clark.
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