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Masks are back in the lower chamber of Congress.
Attending Physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan announced in a memo late Tuesday that face coverings are once again required “for meetings in an enclosed US House of Representatives controlled space,” including the House chamber.
The new mandate came down hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended mask-wearing in indoor public spaces in localities where coronavirus transmission is “substantial” or “high,” regardless of vaccination status.
Despite the fact that Washington, DC is currently experiencing “moderate” transmission according to the CDC’s metrics, Monahan said masking was necessary because the House is made up of “individuals traveling weekly from various risk areas (both high and low rates of disease transmission),” according to The Hill.
Monahan’s memo was issued 47 days after he announced that masks were no longer required to be worn by fully vaccinated members and staff on the House floor or in committee rooms.
However, The Hill reported that some lawmakers and staffers began wearing masks in recent days after Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) tested positive for the virus despite being fully vaccinated. An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also tested positive after interacting with a group of runaway Texas Democratic lawmakers, six of whom tested positive for the virus earlier this month.
The positive tests are part of a surge in cases that is being blamed on the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.
Monahan’s memo was met with anger by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
“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 tweeted.
House Republicans chafed under the earlier mask mandate. Six GOP members received $500 fines for refusing to wear face coverings on the House floor in May, before the initial guidance was lifted.
Earlier Tuesday, one of those lawmakers, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said he was suing Pelosi over his fine, claiming she had imposed the mask rule unilaterally in violation of the 27th Amendment. That amendment states that laws affecting the compensation of Congress can’t take effect in the middle of a term.
Massie told the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper he was being joined in his lawsuit by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Ralph Norman (R-SC).
“We are here today not because of $500 in fines, but because the American people need somebody to fight and they’re tired of people who won’t fight,” Massie said. “And we are going to fight.”
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