Paul Kane and Colby Itkowitz,
The Washington Post
July 29, 2020
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that all lawmakers will now be required to wear a mask while appearing on the chamber floor, a decision spurred by the news that a Republican congressman who has spurned facial coverings had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Pelosi, with her own mask pulled down below her chin, informed her colleagues from the speaker’s chair that all members and their staff must be wearing a mask inside the chamber and may remove it temporarily only when recognized to speak.
She said she expects everyone to “adhere to this requirement as a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas.”
Masks will be available to any member who forgets one, Pelosi said, adding that noncompliance will be viewed as “a serious breach of decorum” that can result in the offending lawmaker being removed from the chamber floor.
Pelosi, D-Calif., is considering other measures to more strictly enforce the wearing of masks in the Capitol complex, according to a Democratic official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private discussion. They already are required in committee hearings, where lawmakers sit physically distanced and must have a mask on unless it is their turn to speak.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, revealed Wednesday that he’d tested positive for the coronavirus shortly before he was expected to travel on Air Force One with President Donald Trump. Gohmert has been part of a contingent of several House Republicans who often do not wear masks around the Capitol.
On Tuesday, Gohmert walked to the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing with Attorney General William Barr without a mask on, though he did wear one once he was inside the room. Gohmert walked in close proximity to Barr in the hallway when neither man was wearing a mask.
Gohmert’s case renewed a debate on Capitol Hill about whether lawmakers traveling from other parts of the country should be tested when they return to Washington. In the spring, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., jointly rejected an offer from the Trump administration to use the kind of rapid response tests it has, saying the limited capacity of those tests should be reserved for essential workers and others in more dire circumstances.
But with the coronavirus surging in many states this summer, there is a renewed push by Republicans and Democrats to have more regular testing of lawmakers.
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