Gaetz wears gas mask on House floor during vote on bill to fight coronavirus

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzImpeachment figure among those chosen for Facebook's new oversight board House GOP urge Trump against supporting additional funding for state and local governments GOP lawmakers press Trump to suspend visas over coronavirus job losses MORE (R-Fla.) on Wednesday wore a gas mask on the House floor during a vote on an emergency funding bill to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

“Reviewing the coronavirus supplemental appropriation and preparing to go vote,” Gaetz tweeted ahead of the vote, including a photo of himself wearing the mask.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gaetz initially maintained that he was within his rights to wear the device on the House floor despite the sergeant-at-arms requesting that he remove it in the chamber.

"There are provisions in the House rules that permit medically necessary headgear," Gaetz said after walking off the floor.

Gaetz later acknowledged in a statement to The Hill that "House rules do not explicitly allow medical headgear even at this time of heightened concern," adding, "This is a rule that should be revisited."

ADVERTISEMENT

The moment raised eyebrows on Twitter.

During an animated conversation with Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoArizona health department told university to stop doing COVID-19 modeling OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Green groups sue over Trump rollback of Obama-era waterway protections | Warren calls for SEC to require climate risk disclosures Democratic super PAC launches ad targeting Trump's 'alternative facts' on coronavirus MORE, the Arizona Democrat informed Gaetz he was wearing the mask incorrectly.

"Look, bipartisanship," Gallego said of his decision to help his GOP colleague.

"Gallego told me how. He knows how because he's a Marine," Gaetz said, confirming he had since adjusted the device. "He showed me how you wear it correctly."

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellDemocrats on edge over California special election nail-biter Michigan GOP congressman sues governor over emergency orders GOP lawmakers slam proposals for guaranteed income amid pandemic MORE (R-Mich.) at one point jokingly sat next to Gaetz and covered his air vent. 

"Paul Mitchell did cover the air intake hole only momentarily," Gaetz said. "Look, members of Congress are human petri dishes. We fly through the dirtiest airports. We touch everyone we meet. If anyone's gonna get coronavirus, it's gonna be the people on that floor, so I want to be ready.

When asked if he would continue to wear the mask in the chamber in the coming days, Gaetz told reporters, "Great question."

The Florida Republican joined other lawmakers on Wednesday in voting to approve an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill to battle the spread of coronavirus, the first major step by Congress to address the growing number of cases and deaths in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80 cases have been reported in the U.S. and nine deaths. The total does not include the more than 40 people who contracted the virus on a cruise ship weeks ago.

The Wednesday vote also comes as the Trump administration continues to face mounting pressure from lawmakers and the public to increase efforts to prevent the virus from taking a stronghold in the country.

Updated: 6:05 p.m.