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To Make Point on Masks, Iowa Lawmaker Wears Jeans to Work

Jeans are harmless, but 'not wearing a mask can kill people,' says Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2021 10:30 AM CST
To Make a Point, Iowa Lawmaker Breaks Jeans Rule
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell speaks on Jan. 19, 2021, at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.   (Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register via AP)

"If they can enforce a denim dress code, they can also enforce a mask mandate." That's the message from Iowa Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, who chose this week to break a rule banning jeans from the state's House. Republicans, who control both the state House and Senate, have rejected attempts by Democrats to add a mask mandate to the rulebook, with House Speaker Pat Grassley claiming enforcement would require that noncompliant members be removed by officers. He's said he's unwilling to take that step, per KCCI. That got Democrat Wessel-Kroeschell thinking, particularly after four coronavirus cases were traced to the Capitol within a week. If Grassley couldn't enforce a mask mandate, she wondered how he could enforce a dress code. And so, she put on a pair of blue jeans and walked into the House chamber for Tuesday's debate.

Under the rules set by Republicans, members are encouraged but not required to wear a mask, disclose a positive COVID-19 test, or report possible exposure to the virus, per the Des Moines Register. Yet "not wearing a mask can kill people," Wessel-Kroeschell said Tuesday. She noted state Rep. Amy Nielsen had tested positive and believes she was infected at the Capitol, where at least six Republican members go without masks. Wessel-Kroeschell said others only wear masks under their noses. "They're putting all of us in danger," she said, adding her jeans were of small concern in comparison. Grassley, however, refused to recognize Wessel-Kroeschell as she tried to speak during Tuesday's debate, citing the dress code violation. She was still allowed to vote. A rep for Grassley notes the speaker can evidently handle rule violations "as he sees fit," per KCCI. (Read more Iowa stories.)

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