Republicans defy mask rules on House floor
Several GOP lawmakers on Tuesday defied a requirement for everyone to wear masks on the House floor, protesting how the rules haven’t changed in light of new health guidance stating that those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can forgo face coverings in most settings.
A Capitol official said that three Republicans will be issued $500 fines for flouting the mask rules: Reps. Brian Mast (Fla.), Beth Van Duyne (Texas) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa). Seven other Republicans will be issued first-offense warnings.
Those issued warnings include Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Chip Roy (Texas), Bob Good (Va.), Mary Miller (Ill.) and Louie Gohmert (Texas). If these lawmakers defy the rules again, they could face $500 fines. Subsequent offenses would result in $2,500 fines.
Several House Republicans who protested the mask rules on Tuesday are among those who haven’t revealed their vaccination status publicly or have openly said they won’t get vaccinated.
Greene posted a photo of herself with three other Republicans on the House floor without masks, writing in a tweet that “Masks are oppressive and nothing but a political tool. End the oppression!” and adding “#FreeYourFace.”
— Marjorie Taylor Greene (@mtgreenee) May 18, 2021
Of the Republicans in Greene’s photo, only Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) confirmed in a recent CNN survey that he has been vaccinated.
Massie, meanwhile, has openly said he will not get vaccinated because he previously tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Vaccines are still recommended for people who recovered from the virus.
The Kentucky lawmaker estimated that 10 Republicans participated in the mask protest Tuesday. He posted a photo of his voting card casting a “no” vote in which he made an addition to make clear he had “no mask.”
“We’ve had enough. We are refusing to wear our masks on the floor during this vote in spite of [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s threat to take $500 from each of us. Her rule is not based on science. All you need to know is the mask rule has only ever applied to members when they can be seen on TV!” Massie tweeted.
Mast also refused to wear a mask, even after a House floor staffer came over to speak with him. Mast was sitting in direct view of the C-SPAN cameras as Roy was delivering remarks.
I am listening to the CDC scientists.
— Rep. Brian Mast (@RepBrianMast) May 18, 2021
Multiple Democrats, including Reps. Robin Kelly (Ill.) and Jamie Raskin (Md.), tried to convince the GOP lawmakers to put their masks on, to no avail.
“I told them to be more considerate of other members and staff and they should have their masks on,” Kelly told The Hill.
Confrontations over masks continued outside the Capitol as the maskless GOP lawmakers posed for a photo together. The group included Mast, Greene and Massie, as well as Reps. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), Miller, Boebert, Good and Van Duyne.
Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and Mast then got into an exchange about masks in front of reporters on the Capitol steps.
“If you choose not to wear a mask, if you choose to disrespect the floor staff, if you choose to give them a hard time, that’s on you,” Hayes told Mast.
“It’s definitely on us if we choose not to wear a mask. I’m glad we agree,” Mast replied.
Pelosi first announced last summer that masks would be required on the House floor after several Republicans refused to wear them in compliance with guidelines at the time from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including one lawmaker who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
Democrats voted in January to levy fines — $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for the second — on any lawmaker who refuses to wear masks on the House floor. The monetary enforcement came after several Republicans did not wear masks while lawmakers who had evacuated from the House chamber on Jan. 6 were crowded together in a secure space.
After the CDC released updated guidance last week, the Capitol’s attending physician, Brian Monahan, said in a memo that the mask mandate would remain in effect in the House chamber until all members and floor staff are fully vaccinated. Monahan further clarified in a memo on Monday that masks would also still be required in committee meetings.
Monahan said in the Monday memo that “additional medical safeguards are required to reduce the risk of coronavirus outbreak” on the House floor because it is “the only location where the entire Membership gathers periodically throughout the day in an interior space.”
House members are required to wear masks on the floor, but can remove them when recognized to speak during debate or while presiding over proceedings.
CNN’s survey found that all 219 House Democrats confirmed they are vaccinated, while only 95 of the 211 Republicans did. CNN noted that 111 GOP offices didn’t respond to its survey.
On the other side of the Capitol, no such requirement has ever been in effect for the Senate chamber. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both went without masks after the CDC announcement that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear them indoors or outdoors except in crowded settings such as public transit.
Republicans have been pushing to lift the House’s COVID-19 protocols, including an end to proxy voting that Pelosi extended to July 3.
“It is time we follow the science, lead by example, and fully return to work to serve the American people,” House Republicans wrote in a letter to Pelosi on Tuesday.
Updated: 8:22 p.m.
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