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The Biden administration says it could appeal a decision that overturned a mask mandate on public transportation.

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it intends to appeal a Florida judge’s ruling that overturned a federal mask requirement on planes, trains, buses and other public transportation — but only if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decides that the extension of the measure is necessary.

The Justice Department’s announcement came after a day of back-and-forth inside the White House as administration officials faced a legal and policy dilemma: whether to keep the judge’s decision or fight it, knowing that an appeal could result in a higher court, possibly the Supreme Court, ruling against the administration and setting a lasting precedent that could undermine the CDC’s authority.

Ultimately, the administration charted a cautious course, publicly opposing Monday’s decision but postponing a final decision on whether to challenge it. The Justice Department and the CDC “do not agree with the district court’s decision and will appeal, subject to the CDC’s finding that the order remains necessary for public health,” the department said. in a press release.

“You’re in the position of having two horrible choices,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University. “One choice is to risk forever removing the powers of the CDC if it goes all the way to the 11th Circuit and ultimately the Supreme Court.

“And on the other hand,” he added, “if you let go of what I consider to be an illegal decision by this judge, then the CDC is going to be reluctant to do things that they think are effective for the protection of the American public.

The mask mandate — which also applied to transportation hubs like airports and train stations, and even ride-sharing services like Uber — was due to expire on May 3 before the judge even overturned it on Monday.

If the CDC decides there is a public health basis to attempt to reinstate and extend the warrant, the Justice Department will promptly file an appeal. But if the CDC decides otherwise, the administration won’t appeal, and the case will instead end as a talking point — but with no sign of the executive branch acquiescing to the judge’s view of his authority.

The Justice Department “continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority that Congress has given the CDC to protect public health,” its statement said. “It’s an important authority that the department will continue to work to preserve.”