Hoyer: Maskless Republicans a public health threat

Hoyer: Maskless Republicans a public health threat

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (D-Md.) said Wednesday that those congressional Republicans still refusing to wear masks amid the coronavirus pandemic are, themselves, a public health threat.

For members of a Republican Party that often touts the importance of personal responsibility, those lawmakers have exhibited "no personal responsibility or consideration for others," Hoyer charged.

"Very frankly, too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly," Hoyer told reporters on a press call.

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The comments arrived shortly after the news broke that Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump order aims to curb US agencies' use of foreign workers after TVA outrage | EPA transition back to the office alarms employees | Hundreds of green groups oppose BLM nominee Interior stresses 'showing up for work' after Grijalva tests positive for coronavirus Trump's junk medicine puts his own supporters at deadly risk MORE (R-Texas) had become the latest member of Congress to contract the coronavirus.

Hoyer quickly urged Gohmert, 66, to self-quarantine and vote by proxy.

"Gohmert, No. 1, ought to be off the floor — ought to be quarantined," Hoyer said.

"Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamMultiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert Hoyer: Maskless Republicans a public health threat Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 MORE immediately — immediately — quarantined himself, as soon as he was tested," Hoyer added, referring to the South Carolina Democrat who contracted COVID-19 earlier in the year.

"Gohmert ought to do the same."

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Shortly afterward, Gohmert told a local Texas news outlet that he was asymptomatic but would self-isolate for 10 days.

Gohmert, a conservative firebrand, was scheduled to join President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE on a trip to Texas on Wednesday — an excursion requiring all participants to take a coronavirus test as a precaution for protecting the president. Gohmert's test came back positive, Politico first reported.

While Gohmert is not the first lawmaker to contract the virus, his diagnosis prompted some special scrutiny in Congress, since he is among the small but willful group of conservative Republicans who have frequently refused to wear masks around Capitol Hill.

Public health experts, including those on Trump's coronavirus response team, have strongly recommended mask-wearing as a way to minimize the spread of the highly contagious virus. Masks have been found to protect others from those who are infected, and more recent research suggests they may also help protect the mask-wearer from contracting the virus.

Gohmert had participated in Tuesday's much-watched House Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General William BarrBill BarrGOP lawmaker calls for Justice Dept. to probe international court Barr pulls over to thank pro-police rally in Virginia Trump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent MORE. Video captured by The Hill outside the hearing room shows Gohmert and Barr walking in proximity, neither of them wearing masks.

Barr's office has said the attorney general will be tested on Wednesday.

Hoyer, though not a member of the Judiciary panel, had attended Tuesday's hearing to bring some more attention to the Democrats' criticisms of Barr. On Wednesday, he hammered Gohmert and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWorld's most trafficked mammal gives Trump new way to hit China on COVID-19 The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence Tucker Carlson calls Fauci a 'fraud' after tense hearing MORE (R-Ohio), another conservative Freedom Caucus member who refuses to wear a mask, saying they jeopardized the health of everyone around them.

"[Gohmert] came into the room without a mask on. Jordan did the same. Totally irresponsible behavior, not for themselves — clearly irresponsible for themselves — but irresponsible to everybody else who was in that room. Everybody else they've come in contact with," Hoyer said.

Behind GOP leaders, Republicans have been virtually united in their staunch opposition to remote voting, saying it's an unconstitutional system that risks outside influence.

Democrats have dismissed those objections, arguing that proxy voting is secure technologically and the best way to ensure that lawmakers with health concerns can continue to represent their districts' views as legislation hits the floor.

"Why they don't like the process is beyond me, because it reflects 435 districts' opinion, which is what the American people want," Hoyer said. "Frankly, they don't care whether I vote from this chair, that chair or the other chair. What my constituents care about is that I reflect their opinions."

Thus far, House leaders have resisted any mandates that lawmakers be tested for the coronavirus. Hoyer said he plans to revisit that question in the wake of Gohmert's diagnosis.

"We have discussed it in the past, and this may be — no, this is, I think — a moment where we ought to discuss it again," Hoyer said. "I will be discussing it with the Speaker and with the minority leader, as to what we think is the policy that will be most effective."