McMorris Rodgers floats vacating Speaker’s chair over Democrat’s in-person vote after COVID diagnosis

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) floated the notion on Tuesday that Republicans should offer a motion to vacate the chair of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), citing the participation of Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.) in the Speaker vote on Sunday despite testing positive for the coronavirus late the previous month.

Two GOP lawmakers, who attended a closed-door meeting on Tuesday where the idea was proposed, said they believe the move could garner significant support within the conference, arguing Pelosi, in allowing Moore to attend the vote in-person, put other members’ health at risk in order for the California Democrat to retain the Speaker’s gavel.

A spokesperson for McMorris Rodgers confirmed to The Hill that she made the suggestion to vacate the chair as “one option available to hold the Speaker accountable for Sunday’s unjust vote and to seek justice for Americans across this country and their representatives in the House.”

“The Congresswoman agrees with her colleagues that Speaker Pelosi’s unilateral decision to change guidelines and allow a member to break COVID-19 quarantine protocols in the House was a clear abuse of power, which disenfranchised voting privileges of all duly elected members,” the spokesman said. 

Moore announced she tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 28. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that those who test positive or have been exposed to the virus quarantine for at least seven to 10 days, Moore’s office stated that she “has worked with doctors and is safe to travel” to the Jan. 3 vote.

Moore announced her positive diagnosis on Dec. 28, but released a statement on Tuesday evening claiming to have first tested positive on Dec. 23.

“I would like to reassure all of my colleagues, constituents, and the people who work within the Capitol complex that I have complied with all doctor and CDC guidelines following my COVID-19 diagnosis and isolation, and that I am COVID-recovered and safe to work and vote on behalf of the people of the Fourth Congressional District of Wisconsin,” she said in the statement.

Moore told a reporter Sunday that she “didn’t get a negative test,” before arriving at the Capitol on Sunday but said she was cleared by the Capitol’s attending physician to be there. Moore said at the time she had been in quarantine for two weeks.

Republicans have slammed Moore and Pelosi for the decision to allow her into the chamber, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) noting on Sunday two Republicans who tested positive refrained from participating in the vote. 

McCarthy, House Administration Committee ranking member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) sent a letter to Pelosi on Tuesday, slamming the move as irresponsible and noting the minority party was not informed about the construction of a plexiglass area in the chamber’s visitors gallery to allow members breaking quarantine to vote.

Two other Democrats, Reps. Frederica Wilson (Fla.), and Tim Ryan (Ohio) and one Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.) utilized the enclosure in the chamber to take part in the Speaker vote. 

“The opening day of the 117th Congress was the latest example of medical guidance being thrown out the window in favor of what is politically convenient,” they wrote. “The detailed guidance on the logistics for January 3rd issued at your direction by the House Sergeant at Arms and Attending Physician were completely abandoned. Despite the science not changing, the guidelines we operated under for your election as Speaker did.”

— Updated 5:43 p.m.

Tags Cathy McMorris Rodgers Frederica Wilson Gwen Moore Jeff Fortenberry Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Nancy Pelosi Rodney Davis Steve Scalise Tim Ryan

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