GOP Rep. Clyde racks up $33K in mask fines

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) has been fined for at least $33,000 for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor, the House Ethics Committee disclosed on Monday.

Clyde filed an appeal with the Ethics Committee to contest some of the fines, but the panel, which has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, rejected it.

The first-term lawmaker has racked up tens of thousands of dollars' worth of fines this year for repeatedly ignoring House Democrats' rules meant to serve as safety measures for the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

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Clyde was also fined $15,000 earlier this year for twice failing to complete a security screening before entering the House chamber. The security screenings were established after Jan. 6 to enforce long standing rules prohibiting anyone from bringing weapons into the House chamber.

Clyde is among the far-right House Republicans who have attempted to downplay the severity of the Jan. 6 attack, saying at a hearing in May that one image from that day looked like a "normal tourist visit."

Clyde argued in his appeal that the fines are unconstitutional, citing the 27th Amendment that prohibits any change in lawmaker compensation until after an election has passed.

House Democrats established fines in January to enforce the requirement that all lawmakers wear masks on the floor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fines start at $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.

However, lawmakers can remove their masks when speaking or presiding over House floor debate. Neither lawmakers nor staff face fines for failing to wear a mask outside of the House chamber, even though the Capitol physician reinstated a mask mandate for the House side of the Capitol complex in July due to the delta variant of COVID-19. 

The fines for enforcing the security screenings are even heftier, starting at $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for additional offenses.

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Clyde, as well as Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertFocus on Perry could mean more subpoenas, challenges for Jan. 6 panel Members of Congress not running for reelection in 2022 House Ethics panel dismisses security screening fine issued to GOP lawmaker MORE (R-Texas), filed a lawsuit in June to challenge the constitutionality of the security screening fines.

Clyde isn't the only House Republican repeatedly getting fined for not wearing a mask in the House chamber.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) told The Hill last month that she has reached at least $63,000 in mask fines through mid-November.

Several other Republicans have been fined for violating the House floor mask requirement, but have not done so repeatedly like Greene and Clyde.

The House Ethics Committee also disclosed on Monday that Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) had been fined $500 and that it rejected his appeal to contest it.

Good argued in his appeal that the fines were unconstitutional and arbitrarily enforced.

While public health experts recommend the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some studies have shown some types of masks to be more effective than others. Public health experts have said that respirator masks like N95s offer better protection than cloth masks, but any mask is better than none at all.

Good argued in his appeal to the Ethics Committee that the fines enforcing the House floor mask requirement amounted to "an excessive fine for failure to wear certain attire."

"Make no mistake, a cloth face covering which would comport with [the rules establishing the mask fines] but would not prevent the transmission of a virus is nothing more than attire and no fine should be imposed to be consistent with other standards of attire within the House rules," Good wrote.