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GOP Sen. Mitt Romney votes with Democrats to keep mask mandate for toddlers

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Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) recently joined Democratic colleagues on the Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee to approve a rule that keeps in place a mask mandate for toddlers involved in a federal early learning program.

What happened?

The controversial vote came Tuesday at a HELP committee hearing, during which lawmakers assessed a Department of Health and Human Services' rule requiring masks for all Head Start program participants — even for children as young as 2 years old.

Head Start is a federal program with chapters in all 50 states that aims to "promote the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families."

Under the rule, effective Nov. 30, 2021, all Head Start participants 2 years of age and older are subject to "universal masking" with the aim of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Head Start staff and volunteers are also required to be vaccinated.

Republicans on the committee, however, have sought to provide congressional disapproval of the HHS initiative. In particular, Sen. Mike Braun introduced an amendment seeking to prevent the department from implementing or enforcing its regulations on Head Start program participants.

But in a 12-10 vote Tuesday, Democratic committee members — with Romney's help — blocked Braun's amendment. Based on video of the vote posted on Twitter, Romney was the only Republican senator to side with Democrats on the committee.

What was the reaction?

News of Romney's vote quickly elicited condemnation from Republicans on social media.

BlazeTV host Steve Deace tweeted, "Mitt Romney is human debris politically. Always has been, always will be. Some of us have been telling you this since 2007."

Conservative digital strategist Greg Price wrote, "Mitt Romney is literally the worst."

Seth Weathers was less cordial. He called the Utah senator and former Republican presidential nominee a "real piece of s**t."

"Was never big on Romney," Jedidiah Bila said. "Could never understand why a limited government advocate would flock to the Romneycare architect. Also, I remember a website that was up when he ran for President that showed how he’d been on both sides of every major issue."

TheBlaze reached out to Romney's office for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Anything else?

Braun's amendment enjoyed widespread support from Republican colleagues, including from moderate party members, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Republicans argued that HHS guidance should follow in step with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that no longer call for mask-wearing in public.

"After being subjected to federal mask mandates for almost two years, President Biden announced in his State of the Union address under the CDC’s new mask guidelines, most Americans in most of the country can now be mask-free," Braun said during the hearing, according to the Federalist. “I completely agree with him on that. It’s time to get our lives back especially based upon science and not the political science."

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) added, "Really, what we’re doing is just punishing children. The rest of America is insulted by you telling them that their kids who are not at risk from dying from this disease, are not spreading it, that somehow we’re going to force these kids to keep wearing masks. It’s unscientific, it’s inhumane and it stunting their learning."

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