Republican members of Congress who refuse to play House Democrats’ mask games should be put in the penalty box, according to one top Democrat.
Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, billed as the assistant speaker of the House, sent a letter Tuesday to the House sergeant at arms calling for what she termed “isolation boxes” to be built for members who refuse to wear masks in the chamber despite House rules that levy fines for violations.
Other Republicans — including Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa, Chip Roy of Texas and Bob Good of Virginia — also have been fined, the report said.
The House fines members $500 the first time they enter the chamber maskless and $2,500 thereafter for each violation.
House rules only cover the chamber and not members’ conduct outside of Washington. That means Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who recently announced she was COVID-positive after cavorting mask-free at a drag queen bar in Florida, are not fined.
Clark’s modern-day version of public punishment was outlined in her letter.
She said the fines imposed under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s orders “have proven insufficient to prevent some Members from repeatedly violating this commonsense rule.”
“This callous disregard for House rules endangers the health of Members of Congress and the professional staff whose physical presence is required to ensure continuity of government,” Clark wrote.
The congresswoman then suggested masks might have an impact on the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, which has raged through the ranks of the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.
“This has only become more urgent with the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant and what the Attending Physician describes as ‘unprecedented number of cases in the Capitol community,’” Clark wrote.
“That is why, in addition to imposing fines, I am requesting that your office begin requiring Members who fail to comply with this rule to attend the House floor from the isolation boxes in the House Gallery,” she wrote.
“These boxes were designed to minimize the risk of exposure to quarantined Members, yet those who refuse to mask pose the same or higher risk of exposing individuals around them to COVID. This commonsense step will not only protect our dedicated House staff from Members who refuse to follow House rules, but it will also allow those Members to continue to fulfill their constitutional duty to vote on matters before the House,” she said.
Clark did not suggest the potential dimensions of such a box.
Some pushed back against the idea.
You are the definition of psychotic and evil.
— In A Mad World (@InAMadWorld111) January 12, 2022
Americans: We can’t afford gas and groceries, crime in our communities is out of control, and our wages can’t keep up with inflation
— Nathan Brand (@NathanBrandWA) January 11, 2022
Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky called such an action unconstitutional and also questioned Clark’s title of “assistant speaker,” which Pelosi created in 2018, according to The Hill.
#1, What the Sam Hill is “Assistant Speaker of the House?” Can’t find that in my Constitution.
#2, We’re suing the Speaker of the House for her mask rule/fines. Do you want sued too for literally trying to put us in a plexiglass box? This is prohibited by the Constitution. pic.twitter.com/swzeMRlU3k
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) January 11, 2022
On Monday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said in a memo that members should wear N95 masks and scurry back to their offices after voting to minimize the sphere of the virus.
“Members are further advised to exit the House Floor immediately after voting,” the memo said. “Members are also strongly discouraged from congregating on the House Floor and in the surrounding areas during votes.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.