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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Tuesday pressed Attorney General Merrick Garland on “conflicting positions” the Biden administration has held on a number of issues, including COVID-19 mandates and border security.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Collins asked Garland how the administration could justify its conclusion that the pandemic had “subsided enough to warrant the termination of Title 42” while at the same time arguing that “the public health consequences are dire enough to warrant compelled mask usage by Americans on public transportation.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing to discuss the fiscal year 2023 budget of the Department of Justice at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2022.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing to discuss the fiscal year 2023 budget of the Department of Justice at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2022.
(GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

MORE DEMOCRATS SOUND THE ALARM AS WHITE HOUSE PLANS TO SCRAP TITLE 42

In his response to Collins, Garland insisted that the role of the Justice Department is “not to make judgments about the public health and really not to make judgments about policy,” but to instead “make determinations of whether the programs and requests of the agencies that are responsible for those are lawful.”

Garland said the issue of masks being required by the federal government on public transportation is “quite transparent” and insisted that the department’s appeal aiming to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the federal mask mandate on public transportation was made from a legal standpoint.

“The CDC announced its assessment that this was a program that was continued to be necessary in the confines of airplanes and public transportation,” Garland said. “The only question for us is that lawful, and they asked us to appeal,” he added.

Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.

Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
(Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Garland said the department’s role is similar in the administration’s decision to lift Title 42, concluding that the department will “defend that program as long as it’s lawful.”

DUCEY, ABBOTT AND OTHER GOP GOVERNORS JOIN BORDER STRIKE FORCE TO COMBAT ILLEGAL ACTIVITY AT SOUTHERN BORDER

“I understand that,” Collins responded. “I think that the CDC has put the Justice Department in an untenable position of arguing one position in one case and a completely conflicting position in another case.”

Citing statistics about the flow of illegal drugs into America, particularly in her home state of Maine, Collins asked Garland whether he would agree that the government’s “inability to secure the southern border” has led to an increase in the amount of drugs coming into the country and impacting American communities.

“The job of the Justice Department is to fight the large scale drug trafficking organizations that are bringing these drugs into the country,” he responded, without indicating that the Biden administration was unable to secure the border. “That’s the reason we have asked for large increases for all of our anti-drug programs.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland answers questions during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing to discuss the fiscal year 2023 budget of the Department of Justice at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2022.

Attorney General Merrick Garland answers questions during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing to discuss the fiscal year 2023 budget of the Department of Justice at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2022.
(GREG NASH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked the Justice Department to appeal a decision from a federal judge in Florida who struck down a federal requirement for face masks on public transportation.

Announced earlier this month, the Biden administration announced it would end title 42 on May 23. The policy, used since March 2020 under both Presidents Trump and Biden, provided the ability for American officials to expel migrants crossing the border to seek asylum during a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this story.

 

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