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Democrats offer bill fining lawmakers who don't wear masks in Capitol

Democrats offer bill fining lawmakers who don't wear masks in Capitol
© Greg Nash

Two House Democrats introduced a bill Tuesday to fine lawmakers who do not wear masks on Capitol grounds after three representatives announced they tested positive for COVID-19 following a lockdown caused by the mob that stormed the building last week.

Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellDemocrats to levy fines on maskless lawmakers on House floor Growing number of lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after Capitol siege Democrats offer bill fining lawmakers who don't wear masks in Capitol MORE (D-Mich.) and Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownCalls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack Democrats to levy fines on maskless lawmakers on House floor Growing number of lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after Capitol siege MORE (D-Md.) proposed legislation that would fine members of Congress $1,000 per day for declining to wear a mask on Capitol grounds.

The bill’s introduction comes after Reps. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanBiden scolds Republicans for not wearing masks during Capitol attack The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-N.J.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for COVID-19 Overnight Health Care: Trump admin makes changes to speed vaccinations | CDC to order negative tests for international travelers | More lawmakers test positive after Capitol siege MORE (D-Wash.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderDemocrats seize on GOP donor fallout The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Ill.) tested positive for the virus in the days after sheltering with some lawmakers who refused to wear masks during the raid.

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Dingell called these lawmakers’ refusal “selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk,” noting that Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-La.) died from COVID-19 before taking office. 

“Yet still, in the midst of a deadly assault on our United States Capitol, a number of our Republican colleagues laughed off rules designed to keep not just their colleagues safe, but to protect the lives of the teams of workers keeping things going, law enforcement, and staff throughout the Capitol,” Dingell said. “Now, three of our colleagues are suffering from the virus.” 

“We’re done playing games,” the Michigan representative added. “Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It’s not that complicated.”

The legislation would keep the fine in place until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ends its recommendation for people to wear masks inside buildings.  

“There must be consequences for selfish and reckless actions that endanger the lives of others,” Brown said in a statement. “No Member of Congress should be able to ignore the rules or put others at risk without penalty. As the people’s representatives it is critical that we set an example for the rest of the country.”

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Lawmakers were forced to flee to secure areas as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol last week in an attempt to disrupt the approval of the Electoral College count certifying President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenDC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Joe Biden might bring 'unity' – to the Middle East Biden shouldn't let defeating cancer take a backseat to COVID MORE’s win.

Many of the congressional members took shelter in large committee rooms together, which the attending physician to Congress cautioned could become a superspreader event. Health experts have also warned the riots themselves could lead to massive COVID-19 spread. 

Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, became the first lawmaker to test positive for the virus after the raid on Monday, and she suggested she could have caught it while being on lockdown with maskless members.  

Since then, Jayapal and Schneider have received positive tests and called on a mandate for congressional members to wear masks in the Capitol.