Amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in the US, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations to reintroduce a number of anti-pandemic measures, including mandatory mask wearing in many places. The rules again stirred the ongoing “mask wars” in the US Capitol.
A group of Republican Representatives entered the Senate Chamber on Thursday to protest the recently-reintroduced mask regime in the US Capitol that authorised Capitol Police to arrest visitors and Capitol workers without face coverings.
Before the march, GOP Congressman Chip Roy proposed to close the House as a move to oppose the new anti-coronavirus measures.
“Congressman Roy said it succinctly on the House floor Wednesday: ‘We have a crisis at our border and we’re playing footsie with mask mandates in the people’s house'”, a spokesperson for the Texas lawmaker told Fox News in an email.
In compliance with recently-reintroduced pandemic protocols in Washington, DC, the US Capitol Police were instructed on 29 July to arrest visitors and staff who are not wearing masks, if they refuse to leave the building or refuse to put on a mask, regardless of their vaccination status.
Heading to Senate floor with about 50 colleagues to demand we end the mask charade. pic.twitter.com/cJic4MpYmH
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) July 29, 2021
Maskless House Republicans protest the House chamber’s mask mandate in the Senate chamber of the Capitol.
— Brian Powell (@BrianPo63656606) July 30, 2021
NOW: large maskless group of House GOP members has just crossed onto the Senate side and asked to enter the Senate Chamber. pic.twitter.com/gfmEAQMWbj
— Chris Cioffi (@ReporterCioffi) July 29, 2021
According to the memo, offending lawmakers cannot be arrested, but only reported to the House sergeant-at-arms, as they have constitutional immunity.
Despite the step triggering a strident backlash – with some Republicans calling the health measure “tyrannical” and a “political move” by Democrats – GOP lawmakers blasted US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, believing the move was implemented by her.
“The speaker of the House does not control the US Capitol Police”, noted Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill earlier, adding, “we were unaware of the memo until it was reported in the press”.
Earlier in May, some House Republicans refused to abide by House rules related to COVID-19. Mandatory mask wearing was introduced in July 2020 by Pelosi after several Republican lawmakers refused to follow CDC guidelines. When the CDC later abolished the measure, it remained in force in the Capitol and, in January 2021, House Democrats imposed fines for those who violated the mask mandate.