Republicans on Capitol Hill are having a difficult time with a newly reinstated mask rule in the House of Representatives, which is based on recommendations from the Capitol physician in the wake of rising coronavirus case numbers.
The return of the mask rule also comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that those living in COVID-19 hotspots (including those who have been vaccinated) should wear masks again, to prevent the possibility of spreading or contracting the more infectious Delta variant of the virus.
“For all House Office Buildings, the Hall of the House, and House Committee Meetings, wearing of a well-fitted, medical grade, filtration face mask is required when an individual is in an interior space and other individuals are present,” the House physician announced.
Republicans did not receive the news in a positive way, to say the least.
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), for example, acted out in an aggressive manner toward a House staffer. When that individual attempted to hand Boebert a mask, the congresswoman threw it back in the staffer’s face, according to a source who witnessed the action in person.
Republican lawmakers also went to the House floor during the morning debate to deride the reinstated mask-wearing rules. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) appeared maskless to rant against the rules while bewilderingly attempting to tie them to the issue of immigration.
“We have a crisis at our border and we’re playing footsie with mask mandates in the people’s house,” Roy said, commenting on the immigration situation at the southern U.S. border that many have pointed out is being exaggerated for political gain. “It’s absolutely absurd what this body is doing. It’s an embarrassment, a mockery, and the American people are fed up.”
Roy pushed false and racist notions in his commentary, suggesting without evidence that immigrants were increasing infection numbers in the U.S.
“This sham of an institution is doing nothing for the American people, nothing for the betterment of the people that sent their representatives here,” he added. “Which is it, vaccines or masks? Do the vaccines work or they don’t work?”
Vaccines remain the most effective way to stop the spread of coronavirus. Currently, 97 percent of hospitalizations in the U.S. are among people who did not get vaccinated for COVID-19. Where vaccines aren’t being used, masks, although not as effective, remain a way to prevent the spread of the virus versus doing nothing at all.
Roy, who appeared maskless during his statement on the House floor, is at risk of facing disciplinary action for disregarding the rules on masks. This would be his third violation of the rule, which means he may be forced to pay a $2,500 fine.
Besides Roy, at least four other Republicans in the House — Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) and Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina) — are also at risk of facing a $2,500 fine if they once again violate the rules on masking. For throwing her mask and disregarding the rules, Boebert, who previously received a first-offense warning in May, may have to pay a $500 fine.
But anger at rules on masking isn’t relegated to a small number of members in the GOP caucus. Party leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), also denounced the reinstatement of CDC masking guidelines this week.
“Make no mistake — The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state,” McCarthy said on Twitter.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on hearing about McCarthy’s comments, reportedly described him as “a moron” to reporters.
In a separate statement defending the reinstated House mask rule, Pelosi condemned Republicans for rejecting methods to slow the spread of the virus.
“The Republican party has been delinquent in embracing the science that people need to be vaccinated,” Pelosi said. “That’s why when we talk about the masking policy in the House, we always just follow the guidance of the Capitol physician.”
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 611,000 Americans have died as a result of coronavirus. In recent days, the seven-day average of new cases being reported is up to 56,635 per day, a rate that hasn’t been seen since the end of April, and which shows a 145 percent increase over the past two weeks.