Republicans, with exception of Trump, now push mask-wearing

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens to questions during a news conference following a GOP policy meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON – In Republican circles — with the notable exception of the man who leads the party — the debate about masks is over: It’s time to put one on.

As a surge of infections hammers the South and West, GOP officials are pushing back against the notion that masks are about politics, as President Donald Trump suggests, and telling Americans they can help save lives.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, on Tuesday bluntly called on Trump to start wearing a mask, at least some of the time, to set a good example.

"Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do,” Alexander said.

It’s a rare break for Republicans from Trump, who earlier this month told the Wall Street Journal that some people wear masks simply to show that they disapprove of him. And the Republican nudges for the public — and the president — to embrace mask-wearing are coming from all corners of Trump’s party and even from friendly conservative media.

Both Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in recent days have urged Americans to wear one when they are unable to maintain social distance. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, told reporters it would be “very helpful” for Trump to encourage mask usage.

“Put on a mask — it’s not complicated," McConnell, R-Ky., urged Americans during his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Last week, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a disposable mask and a cowboy hat. She included the message: “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK #realmenwearmasks,” a hashtag that echoed words spoken earlier by the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.