House rejects GOP effort to roll back chamber’s mask mandate

The House on Wednesday rejected a Republican effort to roll back the requirement that everyone in the chamber wear masks in light of new health guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suggests people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don’t have to wear face coverings in most settings.

Lawmakers voted 218-210 along party lines to table a resolution offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that would direct the Capitol’s attending physician to update the House chamber mask requirement that is currently punishable by fine.

The resolution, authored by McCarthy and members of the GOP Doctors Caucus, 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.”

The CDC announced last week that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks indoors or outdoors, except for certain crowded settings.

The Capitol physician’s office said in a guidance issued Wednesday that the House floor mask requirement remaining in place is “entirely consistent” with the new CDC recommendations because it is “the only location where the entire Membership gathers periodically throughout the day in an interior space.”

“The Hall of the House has received this special medical consideration for continued mask wear, which is the same for committee meeting spaces, that may change in the future based upon [the] degree of entire group vaccination attained and prevailing coronavirus community risk,” the memo from the Capitol physician’s office states. “Extra precautions are necessary given the substantial number of partially vaccinated, unvaccinated, and vaccine-indeterminate individuals.”

Wednesday’s vote came after three GOP lawmakers — Reps. Brian Mast (Fla.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa) and Beth Van Duyne (Texas) — were fined $500 for defying the House floor mask requirement. Any subsequent refusal to wear masks on the House floor would lead to fines increased to $2,500.

Seven other Republicans — Reps. Thomas Massie (Ky.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Chip Roy (Texas), Bob Good (Va.), Mary Miller (Ill.) and Louie Gohmert (Texas) — were issued formal warnings for refusing to wear masks and that they will also face fines if they break the rules again.

Massie made a point of dismissing the warning he received from the House sergeant-at-arms on Wednesday and posted a photo on Twitter of the letter in a trash can.

But of those 10 Republicans issued fines or warnings, only Miller-Meeks confirmed in a CNN survey that she is vaccinated.

The CNN survey found that all 219 House Democrats said they are vaccinated, compared to only 97 of 211 Republicans.

A spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Drew Hammill, blasted Wednesday’s resolution as having “zero basis in science or reality.”

“Minority Leader McCarthy’s resolution is a sad stunt to distract from the reality: that the House Republicans are descending into pure chaos,” Hammill said in a statement. “If Minority Leader McCarthy wants to be maskless on the Floor of the House of Representatives, he should get to work vaccinating his Members.”

Pelosi instituted the House floor mask mandate last July after several Republicans refused to wear masks while the CDC was still recommending that everyone wear facial coverings during the pandemic.

Democrats voted to make noncompliance punishable by fine in January after some Republicans declined to wear masks while lawmakers were evacuated to a crowded secure space during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Tags Brian Mast Chip Roy Kevin McCarthy Lauren Boebert Louie Gohmert Marjorie Taylor Greene Nancy Pelosi Thomas Massie
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