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Ohio U.S. Senator J.D. Vance Picked To Be Trump's Running Mate

In rare vote for Ohio's U.S. Senators, Brown sides with Vance to ban mask mandates on transit

A sign at a D.C. metro station reads "Face covering required"
Phil Pasquini
A sign at a D.C. WMATA station reads "Face covering required"

As the federal government inches closer to the date that its funding will again run out, a “minibus” appropriations package has taken form in the U.S. Senate.

That package, as of Wednesday, includes an amendment prohibiting mask mandates on public transit—with Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) introducing it, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) backing it. Brown joined nine other members of the Democratic party and voted in favor of the proposal in a vote totaling 59 to 38. Three senators did not vote.

“The pandemic is over. There's no reason to make people wear masks,” Brown said in an interview Thursday morning. “That could change, of course, but there's just no reason to have a mandate anymore.”

The provision would ban mask mandates on any form of transit that receives funding from the federal government, including airlines, commuter railways, and buses.

“Democrats insist mask mandates are never coming back,” Vance said in a press release prior to the vote. “If what Democrats say is true, they should have no problem voting for it.”

Since the freshman took office in early 2023, Vance has seen eye-to-eye on very little with Brown.

The senior Democrat and junior Republican are still bitterly divided on funding the Ukrainian war effort. President Joe Biden said in an Oval Office address last Thursday he wants to see funding for Ukraine and Israel packaged together, but Vance is leading an effort to debate and vote on that funding for each country independent of the other.

Brown’s rare vote with Vance for the mask mandate provision came as the 2024 campaign to oust Brown from his seat intensifies.

He won in 2018 by just under seven points. But Republicans have dominated the last five statewide elections, and Brown himself has said he's facing his toughest re-election yet.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, state Sen. Matt Dolan, and Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno are all jockeying for the GOP nomination. The state's 2024 primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.