Republicans push against mask requirement in House chamber

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — There’s an ongoing debate on Capitol Hill over wearing masks on the House floor. Republicans are rebelling against the requirement, stoking tensions with majority Democrats who’re refusing to change the rule-following updated guidance from federal health officials.

Lawmakers can remove their masks when speaking on the House floor but otherwise must keep them on when they are in the chamber. There is no requirement for wearing masks in the Senate chamber.

Several GOP lawmakers risked steep penalties to go mask-less on the House floor this week.

Their defiance could come at a financial cost. Lawmakers who refuse to wear masks are subject to a fine of $500 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses can result in a $2,500 fine. In practice, however, the House sergeant-at-arms is providing a warning for the first offense.

Seven lawmakers will be getting such warnings, according to a list obtained by The Associated Press: Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas, Bob Good of Virginia, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Mary Miller of Illinois.

Three more had already received a warning and will be fined $500. They are Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Beth Van Duyne of Texas. They will be subject to a fine of $2,500 for additional offenses.

Miller-Meeks says she’s fully vaccinated and thinks the House rules miss the opportunity to highlight what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are the benefits of vaccination.

“To show Americans that if you were vaccinated you can go without your mask,” Miller-Meeks said.

“You know it’s counterproductive to do what some of my colleagues did,” said Indiana Republican and Rep. Larry Bucshon

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Bucshon says he’ll follow the rules but also wants them to change.

In most places inside the Capitol Complex, masks are no longer required, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says on the House floor, lawmakers and staff must wear masks until all are fully vaccinated.”

“I mean does anyone want to wear a mask? No, we all want to get through this,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi says the current rules will encourage unvaccinated members to get the shot.

Louisiana Democratic Rep. Troy Carter says wearing masks helped slow the spread of COVID-19 and that the country isn’t out of the pandemic yet.

“We should continue to do those things that got us to a safety point,” Carter said.

Pelosi previously said about 75% of the House is fully vaccinated and could consider lessening restrictions if more GOP members join that group.

Democratic lawmakers say they are tired of the requirements, too, but they worry that some of their Republican colleagues have declined to be vaccinated and could spread the virus.

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