The House of Representatives has rejected a Republican move to repeal a mask mandate for lawmakers in the chamber following new federal guidelines that state fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required in most settings to wear face coverings.
The House voted 218-210 along party lines Wednesday to turn down the resolution House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tabled calling on the attending physician to direct Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to adopt the CDC’s mask guidance for House floor proceedings.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 13 updated its guidance on the wearing of masks to state Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most scenarios.
McCarthy said in a statement announcing his resolution that they as elected officials have a responsibility to send the message to Americans that they believe in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and Pelosi’s reluctance to update the House’s rules “will only help to sow distrust in the vaccines.”
“Vaccinated Americans should have the confidence to return to their pre-pandemic routines, and the federal government should help reinforce trust in the vaccine,” he said. “This should start with our leadership in Congress.”
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesman, called McCarthy’s resolution “a sad stunt” intended to distract from the Republican Party “descending into pure chaos.”
He also accused McCarthy of introducing the bill the same day the House was voting on establishing a commission into the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol.
“After announcing his new opposition to this commission, which was negotiated and called for by his own members, the Republican minority leader is throwing everything at the wall as he tries to stave off internal mutiny,” Hammill said.
The House’s rule is consistent with the CDC’s prevailing mask guidance, he said, stating if McCarthy wants to remove his mask while in chamber he should work to vaccinate the members of his party.
“Far from inhibiting our work, the mask requirement ensures that the House can debate and pass legislation safely and effectively,” Hammill said.
Brian P. Monahan, the attending Capitol physician, said in a document on Wednesday that the House has received special medical consideration for the continued use of masks.
“Extra precautions are necessary given the substantial number of partially vaccinated, unvaccinated and vaccine-indeterminate individuals,” the document states. “Additional medical safeguards are required to reduce the risk of coronavirus outbreak in this vital group.”
At least two Republican lawmakers in the last few days have been fined $500 for violating the mask mandate: Reps. Brian Mast of Florida and Beth Van Duyne of Texas.
“Worth it,” said Van Duyne.
“This was never about science,” said Mast. “It has always been about power.”
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