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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 DingellNurses union lobbies Congress on health care bills during National Nurses Week OSHA sends draft emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 to OMB review Why the US needs a successful federal green bank MORE (D-Mich.) and Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownBottom line House panel to take up 2002 war authorization repeal in 'coming weeks' Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief to press for Manchin's support on Colin Kahl | House Dems seek to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police 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 takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks MORE (D-N.J.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalNurses union lobbies Congress on health care bills during National Nurses Week White House raises refugee cap to 62,500 The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' MORE (D-Wash.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Lawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business 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 BidenSanders: Reinstating SALT deduction 'sends a terrible, terrible message' GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote Shining a light on COINTELPRO's dangerous legacy 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.