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Senators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate

Senators largely shed their masks as they returned to the Capitol on Monday, marking a step back toward pre-pandemic normalcy after more than one year.

Monday's session comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance late last week that vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear masks in most settings indoors or outdoors.

"I think it's just kind of the CDC guidance," said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSanders won't vote for bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right McConnell warns he's willing to intervene in 2022 GOP primaries MORE (R-S.D.) in regards to how senators decided to mask up, or not, as they returned to the Capitol for a procedural vote. 

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In a shift, both Senate Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress MORE (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' McConnell presses for 'actual consequences' in disclosure of tax data MORE (R-Ky.) were maskless on Monday. In the immediate wake of the CDC guidance on Thursday, Schumer left the building with his mask on while McConnell declared that he was "free at last" while leaving without a mask.

But their No. 2s split on Monday, with Thune maskless and Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinHarris calls for pathway to citizenship for Dreamers on DACA anniversary The Hill's Morning Report - Biden on Putin: 'a worthy adversary' McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Ill.), the Democratic whip, spotted on the floor wearing a mask.

The to-mask-or-not-to-mask decision didn't break evenly along party lines.

Though most Republicans weren't wearing masks on Monday, GOP Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyGAO rules Biden freeze on border wall funds legal The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain MORE (Ala.) and Mike RoundsMike RoundsTrump, midterms fuel GOP's effort to quash Jan. 6 commission Senate GOP blocks legislation on Jan. 6 commission Senate votes to advance China bill after Schumer strikes deal MORE (S.D.) were among those spotted with face coverings.

Others including Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans China conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit US, Taiwan to discuss trade, investments, Blinken says MORE (Alaska), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungThis week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (Ind.) walked onto the floor wearing masks before removing them. Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Senators introducing B bill to help narrow digital divide How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress MORE (R-Ohio) was spotted both wearing a mask and not wearing a mask.

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Democrats were more evenly split.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate GOP blocks bill to combat gender pay gap OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps program: exclusive MORE (D-Wash.), the No. 3 Democratic senator, was masked, while Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices Lobbying world Schumer tactics on China bill reveal broader trade strategy MORE (D-Mich.), the No. 4 Democrat, was unmasked.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC US, EU pledge to work together on climate amid reported dissension on coal Senate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill MORE (D-W.Va.) had his mask on when he walked onto the Senate floor for Monday's vote but took it off while talking with Schumer and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingHillicon Valley: Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC | Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cyber during summit with Putin | TSA working on additional security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack Senate Armed Services member: Administration should have 'hair on fire' over Afghan interpreters Senators introducing B bill to help narrow digital divide MORE (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandCosmetic chemicals need a makeover Overnight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Top general: Military justice overhaul proposed by Gillibrand 'requires some detailed study' MORE (D-N.Y.) was wearing a mask when she entered the Capitol on Monday, but when a reporter noted she didn't have to anymore she took it off.

"Oh yeah, I don't," she remarked as she removed the face covering.

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Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Biden budget expands government's role in economy House narrowly approves .9B Capitol security bill after 'squad' drama MORE (D-Vt.) had a mask on while briefly presiding over the Senate and when leaving the Capitol on Monday night, but was spotted maskless on the floor.

Others like Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyMcConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Senate filibuster fight throws Democrats' wish list into limbo Parliamentarian changes Senate calculus for Biden agenda MORE (D-Pa.) were carrying their masks, while several including Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinYouth climate activists march outside California homes of Pelosi and Feinstein Cosmetic chemicals need a makeover Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-Calif.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichFBI warns lawmakers of violence from QAnon conspiracy theorists Overnight Energy: Company officially nixes Keystone XL pipeline | Government watchdog finds failings, but no Trump influence, in clearing of Lafayette Square Democrats blast Biden climate adviser over infrastructure remarks MORE (D-N.M.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (D-Mont.) were unmasked.

But a significant number Democrats were still wearing masks including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC On The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC MORE (D-Mass.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFour states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes Hydrogen isn't as clean as it seems MORE (D-Ore.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden on Putin: 'a worthy adversary' Antsy Democrats warn of infrastructure time crunch 'SECURE 2.0' will modernize retirement security for the post-COVID American workforce MORE (D-Md.), Gary PetersGary PetersAbsences force Senate to punt vote on Biden nominee Senate Democrats investing M in Defend the Vote initiative Senior Biden cyber nominees sail through Senate hearing MORE (D-Mich.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats blast Biden climate adviser over infrastructure remarks Parliamentarian changes Senate calculus for Biden agenda Senate climate advocates start digging in on infrastructure goals MORE (D-Hawaii), Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale Sanders push to block arms sale to Israel doomed in Senate MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC Zombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Progressives threaten to block bipartisan infrastructure proposal MORE (I-Vt.), who also caucuses with Democrats.

The Senate, unlike the House, never had a formal mask mandate, though most lawmakers wore them around the Capitol.

A CNN survey from earlier this month also found that 96 out of the chamber's 100 members had been fully vaccinated, which allows them not to wear masks under more circumstances under the CDC's new guidance.

The House is keeping its mask requirement in place on the floor, though House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene after her apology Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe 21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol on Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.) relaxed it slightly to allow for the removal of masks when members are speaking.

The House also announced on Monday that it would extend proxy voting into next month due to the pandemic. 

House Republicans have been pushing for a return to normal pre-pandemic operations given that roughly 75 percent of House members are vaccinated, but Democratic leaders have been reluctant to scrap their mask rules until all members are vaccinated.