Pelosi warns lawmakers they'll be barred from speaking on House floor without a mask

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils virus plan and urges patience | Fauci says it's 'liberating' working under Biden | House to move quickly on COVID-19 relief Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 On The Money: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief | Biden faces backlash over debt | 900,000 more Americans file for unemployment benefits MORE (D-Calif.) on Tuesday announced an expansion of the House floor mask requirement which will now preclude lawmakers from removing them while speaking before the cameras during the pandemic.

During a brief House pro forma session, Pelosi said while presiding over the chamber that lawmakers will be denied speaking time if they are not wearing a mask going forward.

"Masks will now be required at all times in the hall of the House without exception," Pelosi said. "To be clear, members will not be recognized unless they are wearing a mask and recognition will be withdrawn if they remove the mask while speaking."


"This is a matter of order and decorum," she added.

Pelosi implemented a mask requirement on the House floor in July after dozens of House Republicans continually refused to wear them, prompting concerns about spreading the coronavirus. Among them was Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertTrust between lawmakers reaches all-time low after Capitol riots Why Trump could face criminal charges for inciting violence and insurrection Democrats to levy fines on maskless lawmakers on House floor MORE (R-Texas), who tested positive at the time for COVID-19 after attending multiple committee hearings and voting on the floor without a mask.

Mask compliance became effectively universal once Pelosi enacted the requirement. Floor staffers also initially enforced the rule by telling members to pull up masks that were slipping under their noses.

But lawmakers were previously not required to keep their masks on while recognized to speak on the floor or in committees out of concerns that it could otherwise be difficult for people who have hearing issues to read lips while watching proceedings on television.

But Pelosi's expanded mandate will put an end to that as concerns grow about the spread of COVID-19.

At least 36 members of the House and Senate have tested positive for COVID-19, while several others have tested positive for antibodies or had presumed cases. Fifteen of those members who tested positive were since November while cases have been spiking nationally.

In a memo to lawmakers and staff earlier this month, the Capitol's attending physician urged everyone to wear surgical masks instead of cloth ones and that they be worn "at any time you are in the company of another person, inside or outside."