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 DingellProtecting seniors from guardianship fraud and abuse Nunes formally resigns from Congress Lawmakers in both parties to launch new push on Violence Against Women Act MORE (D-Mich.) and Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownFormer Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat FBI informant who reported abuse in LA jails getting M payout Jan. 6 brings Democrats, Cheneys together — with GOP mostly absent 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 ColemanSanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman discusses decision to keep some people on home confinement out of prison Lawmakers split on next steps to secure transportation sectors against hackers MORE (D-N.J.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDesperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size Sanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Centrist Democrats urge progressives to tamp down rhetoric MORE (D-Wash.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderProgressives declare victory in spending bill fight Biden shows little progress with Abraham Accords on first anniversary Lawmakers tout improved access to health care via telemedicine 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.”

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 BidenStudent debt: It's the interest stupid US maintains pressure on Russia amid concerns of potential Ukraine invasion To stabilize Central America, the US must craft better incentives for trade 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.