Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) endorsed mask mandates for two-year-olds in remarks on the House floor on Wednesday.
"Two-year-olds should have been required to wear masks," Nadler said. "It would be child abuse for parents not to do that because there was no vaccination available for two-year-olds."
Nadler made the comments minutes after Rep. Chip Roy (R., Texas) called out secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra for "fumbling" an answer on whether two-year-olds should have been masked during the pandemic. Roy was using the example to argue for an amendment to require congressional consent before the federal government institutes a mask mandate.
"We watched Secretary Becerra fumbling yesterday ... unable to answer the question, 'Can you tell me, sir, whether or not it was any benefit whatsoever for two-year-old kids to be forced to wear masks?'" Roy said on the floor. "He refused to answer the question in committee because he knew full well he has no good answer to that question."
Becerra dodged the question when asked by Republican Kevin Kiley (Calif.) on Tuesday if "forcing two-year-olds to wear masks save lives."
"Making sure people were masked when it was appropriate was essential to make sure that we were able to get out of this pandemic," Becerra said.
Nadler, on the other hand, was willing to defend masking kids. His defense of masking toddlers is in line with Biden administration policy during the pandemic but stands in contrast to studies that found negative effects of mask-wearing.
In an April 2022 House Education and Labor Committee meeting, Becerra said masks were "safe and effective" and "should be used" for toddlers in HHS's Head Start program, which serves children from poor families.