Tempers flare as some in GOP ignore new House mask mandate

Several GOP lawmakers refused to comply with the newly reinstated mask requirement on the House side of the Capitol on Wednesday, putting themselves at risk of having to pay hefty fines as punishment.

More than half a dozen Republicans refused to wear masks on the House floor, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Chip Roy (Texas), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Mary Miller (Ill.) and Andrew Clyde (Ga.).

Most of the 211 House Republicans did comply with wearing masks on the House floor after the Capitol physician announced late Tuesday night that they would once again be mandatory amid spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

But Republicans who are among the House GOP’s most vocal firebrands made a point of refusing to wear them. Roy forced a procedural vote on a motion to adjourn to protest the reinstated mask requirement, which subsequently failed largely along party lines.

“Consider resentment being magnified right here on floor of the House of Representatives. We are absolutely sick and tired of it and so are the American people,” Roy said.

“This institution is a sham! And we should adjourn and shut this place down,” Roy added before forcing the vote.

Most of the Republicans refusing to wear masks have declined to say if they are vaccinated or have openly confirmed that they are not. All Democrats in the House and Senate, meanwhile, have confirmed publicly that they are vaccinated.

The resentment was on full display Wednesday as lawmakers expressed frustration with having to wear masks again.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) was taken aback when he was about to board an elevator Wednesday with Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), whom he had seen on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” two days ago explaining why he wasn’t vaccinated.

“It’s ridiculous that you’re unvaccinated, unmasked and you’re getting into an elevator with other people,” Huffman told Donalds, before opting to board another elevator.

Huffman and Donalds, who still wasn’t wearing a mask, crossed paths again moments later as they were both entering the House chamber.

“You’re just incredibly selfish,” Huffman told Donalds.

“What are you doing? Mind your business. Leave me alone,” Donalds responded.

Donalds told The Hill afterward that he had been unaware of the Capitol physician’s announcement Tuesday night about the reinstated mask mandate.

“I saw it today. I mean, I got things going on. I don’t sit and watch, like, every email coming through. Come on now,” Donalds said.

The House first instituted a requirement to wear masks a year ago because dozens of GOP lawmakers refused to voluntarily comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations that everyone wear masks, at a time when vaccines were not yet available.

House Democrats later established fines — $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for a subsequent offense — to enforce compliance in January after some Republicans kept declining to wear masks.

After the CDC announced in late May that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks, the House initially still kept its mask mandate because, according to the Capitol physician, it is “the only location where the entire Membership gathers periodically throughout the day in an interior space.”

Six Republicans — Greene and Reps. Brian Mast (Fla.), Beth Van Duyne (Texas), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa) — were issued $500 fines for protesting the continued mask requirement despite the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people at the time.

Then on June 11, the Capitol physician announced that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks on the House floor.

But the mask requirement was not enforced against lawmakers who haven’t confirmed that they are vaccinated, resulting in virtually no one wearing masks on the House floor for the last several weeks.

That changed with the Capitol physician’s announcement Tuesday night, hours after the CDC reversed course and said that masks should be required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in places where COVID-19 spread is high.

Donalds stressed that he is choosing not to be vaccinated since he previously contracted the virus, but is not discouraging others from getting the vaccine.

The CDC still recommends that people previously infected with COVID-19 should get vaccinated to ensure maximum protection.

“The CDC can recommend all they want. But that’s still my choice as a human being about what I’m going to put into my body. You’re talking to someone who doesn’t get flu shots. Why? Because I don’t want to put flu vaccines into my body,” Donalds said.

Huffman expressed exasperation that lawmakers had to wear masks again, which he blamed on “wildly inconsiderate” people refusing to get vaccinated.

“The reason we’re all sporting these things today is because of people like him. And it’s just not okay,” Huffman told The Hill.


Tags Brian Mast Chip Roy Coronavirus COVID-19 Jared Huffman Lauren Boebert Marjorie Taylor Greene Masks Matt Gaetz Ralph Norman Thomas Massie
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