Twenty-one Republican state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Tuesday to block the federal mask mandate on public transportation.
The lawsuit comes a few weeks after the Transportation Security Administration extended its mask requirement for airplanes and other forms of public transportation through April 18. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended the extension, even though it suggested in February that most Americans could stop wearing masks.
In the lawsuit, the states, led by Florida, argued that the C.D.C. was overreaching its authority with the mandate and was interfering with state laws about masking.
“Every U.S. citizen should have the right to fly unmasked,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that it was time to “get back to normal life.”
Airplanes have become a battleground of sorts during the pandemic as flight crews have dealt with a surge in unruly passengers, many of whom refused to wear masks. From Jan. 1 to March 21, the Federal Aviation Administration received 961 reports of unruly passengers, of which 635 were related to masking.
Last week, the chief executives of the largest American airlines and a union that represents flight attendants from Southwest Airlines asked President Biden to let the mask mandate on public transportation expire.
The Biden administration has extended the mandate several times since it instated the requirement in February last year. The previous extensions were each several months long, but the latest extension was only for about a month, signaling that the authorities may be preparing to wind down the requirement.
Still, the attorneys general filed the lawsuit in federal court in Tampa, Fla., because the mandate was “causing chaos on public transportation,” Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general, said in a statement.
“It’s long past time to alleviate some of the pressure on travelers and those working in the travel industry,” she added.
In addition to Florida, 20 other states joined the lawsuit, including nine Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia); four in the Mountain West (Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Utah); six in the Midwest (Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma); and Alaska.