GOP plans to force vote on rolling back House floor mask mandate

GOP plans to force vote on rolling back House floor mask mandate
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWhite House debates vaccines for air travel McCarthy on Dems' spending bill: 'The amount of money we spent to win World War II' Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE (R-Calif.) plans to force a vote later Wednesday on a resolution to change the House floor mask rules in accordance with new health guidance stating that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don't have to wear face coverings in most settings.

The resolution, crafted by McCarthy and members of the GOP Doctors Caucus, specifically directs the Capitol physician to "take timely action to provide updated guidance" applicable to the House floor and committee rooms.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement last week, the Capitol physician, Brian Monahan, said that rules requiring everyone on the House floor to wear masks will remain in effect until all members and floor staff are fully vaccinated.

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McCarthy is expected to call for a vote on the resolution, which Democrats will then move to table. After that, the House is expected to vote on tabling the measure, which is likely to go down along party lines.

The GOP measure states that "the continued House mask mandate sends the erroneous message that the efficacy of the vaccines cannot be trusted" and that "members of the House of Representatives have a responsibility to send a message to the American people that we can trust the safety and efficacy of the available COVID-19 vaccines."

Wednesday's vote will mark the latest GOP protest against the continued mask requirement on the House floor.

Three Republican lawmakers — Reps. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastReps. Greene, Roy fined for not wearing masks on House floor The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Texas's near abortion ban takes effect Absent Democrats give Republicans new opening on Afghanistan MORE (Fla.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa) and Beth Van Duyne (Texas) — will face $500 fines after refusing to wear masks on the House floor on Tuesday. Seven others will be issued formal warnings and will be fined if they break the mask rules again.

But of the 10 Republicans facing fines or warnings, only Miller-Meeks confirmed in a recent CNN survey of House members that she is vaccinated.

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Democrats voted in January to make noncompliance with the House floor mask rules punishable by fine — $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses — after several Republicans declined to wear masks while lawmakers were crowded together in a secure room during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The House floor mask requirement went into effect last summer in the first place because dozens of Republicans refused to wear masks while the CDC was advising everyone to wear them.

Monahan wrote in a memo earlier this week that the continued House floor mask mandate is necessary despite the new CDC guidance because it is "the only location where the entire Membership gathers periodically throughout the day in an interior space."

House members are allowed to remove their masks on the floor while speaking, during debate or while presiding over proceedings.

No such mask mandate has existed in the Senate, where most members have voluntarily complied with guidance to wear masks. But senators have been largely shedding their masks in recent days since the CDC announcement last week.