House Dems Push Back on GOP Mask Rebellion

Resolution filed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to nix mask mandate on House floor fails
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2021 7:27 AM CDT
Pelosi, McCarthy Clash Over Mask Rules
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is handed the speaker's gavel by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on the opening day of the 117th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 3, 2021.   (Erin Scott/Pool via AP)

The face mask war continues in Congress, with battle lines continuing to be drawn along party lines. Last week, House members were informed by the group's attending physician that they'd need to keep wearing masks on the House floor (unless they were speaking) and during committee meetings, even though the CDC had just updated its own guidelines to say the fully vaccinated can feel free to shed their masks in most cases. Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted at the time that she intended to keep the House mask mandate in place "until all Members and Floor staff are fully vaccinated," per CNN. A recent poll by the outlet showed that, although 100% of Democrats in Congress are vaccinated, 92% of Senate Republicans have gotten their shots, while only about 45% of House Republicans have. On Wednesday, a day after 10 Republicans flouted House rules by removing their masks in the chamber, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy filed a resolution seeking to change the rules.

McCarthy and the resolution's GOP co-sponsors noted in their filing that the House rules should align with CDC guidance, and that the current ban on mask removal "sends the erroneous message that the efficacy of the vaccines cannot be trusted" and "hinders the ability of the House to properly and effectively conduct the people's business." The resolution was promptly voted down with a 218-210 vote, with Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill calling it a "sad stunt," per NBC News. Hammill noted that CDC guidance allowed for workplace exceptions, and that "the mask mandate has not inhibited House business." "If Minority Leader McCarthy wants to be maskless on the Floor of the House of Representatives, he should get to work vaccinating his members," Hammill said. ABC News notes there's no such mandate in place in the Senate. (Read more House of Representatives stories.)

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