Conservatives push for boycott of GOP club over DC vaccine mandate

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) walks over to a press conference on Wednesday, September 29, 2021 to introduce the Defending Students' Civil Rights Act to stop Critical Race Theory teaching in schools.
Greg Nash

Conservative House lawmakers are urging their colleagues to boycott a storied, private Republican club near the Capitol to protest an indoor vaccine mandate imposed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), which is set to take effect this week.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, stood up in a closed-door GOP Conference meeting Tuesday and told colleagues they should refuse to patronize the 70-year-old Capitol Hill Club, eliciting support from some conservatives in the room, sources in the meeting told The Hill. 

The club stated on its website that starting Saturday it will begin requiring that members and guests show their COVID-19 vaccination cards before they can enter the facilities.   

But Good quickly faced pushback from two of the club’s board members — Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) — who argued that it was simply following the city’s health regulations and should not be blamed.

“For some, there’s a mentality of ‘burn the house down,’” said one GOP member who heard the debate in the meeting Tuesday. “The majority of the conference was in the camp of you need to protect the club.”

A second GOP lawmaker who also heard the debate inside the conference also agreed with the board members, and called Good’s idea of a boycott illogical.

“He can always just drop his membership,” the second GOP lawmaker said. “I hear the Democratic Club is hurting for new members and worried about how they will keep their doors open next January.”

In a lengthy statement Tuesday afternoon, Good fired back at some of his own colleagues, blasting them as anonymous leakers and “DC insiders” who back compliance with vaccine mandates.

“My constituents want to know that I am fighting vaccine mandates at every level. In an attempt to paint me in a bad light with the political elites and donor class in Washington, the anonymous leaker inadvertently revealed that some DC insiders are encouraging compliance with mandates, while they claim to their constituents back home that they are here in DC fighting for healthcare freedom,” Good said in his statement. 

“While I don’t leak to the press what my colleagues say in these closed-door Republican meetings, I’m not afraid to say publicly that we should stand up and say ‘no’ to Mayor Bowser’s vaccine passports, refuses to comply, and also remind her that Congress ultimately must approve the DC budget,” he continued. “I must also say that I admire the courage of my fellow members who provide anonymous quotes to the press.”

The Capitol Hill Club, which is located next to the Republican National Committee headquarters and was founded in 1951, is a favorite dining and drinking spot for GOP lawmakers, staffers, government officials and lobbyists.

In fact, for some die-hard GOP lawmakers who refuse to spend their money in D.C. restaurants and bars — and send their tax dollars to the D.C. government run by Bowser — the private club is the only place they will eat and drink when they are in Washington.

The D.C. vaccine mandate comes as the omicron variant of the coronavirus has wreaked havoc in the D.C. metro area, driving up cases and hospitalizations. The U.S. Capitol has been hit particularly hard, with at least nine lawmakers testing positive since Friday.

But mask and vaccine mandates like those in D.C. have drawn ire from Republicans. Earlier this week, nearly 20 House Republicans sent a letter pressing Bowser to reverse course on the mandate requiring people to show proof of their vaccination before entering bars, restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses.

“The spread of the omicron variant among the vaccinated population indicates the Order will be ineffective at stopping viral spread while imposing significant costs to the District, its residents, its economy, and Americans across the nation who wish to visit their capital,” wrote the group of Republicans, led by Rep. James Comer (Ky.), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

—Updated at 5:39 p.m.

Tags D.C. James Comer Jeff Duncan Ken Calvert Muriel Bowser vaccine mandate Washington

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