Republicans rebel against mask requirement in House chamber

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., puts her mask back on after a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – Republicans are rebelling against the requirement that they wear a mask on the House floor, stoking tensions with majority Democrats who are refusing to change the rules following updated guidance from federal health officials.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., led an effort Wednesday to get the Office of the Attending Physician to update its guidance for mask wearing for vaccinated lawmakers and staff while they are in the House chamber and in committee hearing rooms, but Democrats defeated it along a party-line vote of 218-210.

Lawmakers can remove their masks when speaking on the House floor, but otherwise must keep it on when they are in the chamber. There is no requirement for wearing masks in the Senate chamber.

Democratic lawmakers say they are tired of the requirements, too, but they worry that some of their Republican colleagues have declined to be vaccinated and could spread the virus.

Some GOP lawmakers opted to go without a mask during votes Tuesday, with a few taking particular care to stand in the well of the chamber to ensure that spectators, colleagues and C-SPAN’s cameras could not miss them.

Their defiance could come at a financial cost. Lawmakers who refuse to wear masks are subject to a fine of $500 for the first offense. Subsequent offenses can result in a $2,500 fine. In practice, however, the House sergeant-at-arms is providing a warning for the first offense.

Seven lawmakers will be getting such warnings, according to a list obtained by The Associated Press: Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas, Bob Good of Virginia, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Mary Miller of Illinois

Three more had already received a warning and will be fined $500. They are Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Beth Van Duyne of Texas. They will be subject to a fine of $2,500 for additional offenses.