House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is tightening requirements for wearing masks on the House floor, telling members they will not be recognized to speak unless they’re wearing a mask.
Masks were already required in the chamber, but until now members been permitted to take off their masks when speaking on the House floor. As the pandemic worsens around the country, a number of members of Congress have contracted COVID-19.
“Members will not be recognized unless they are wearing a mask and recognition will be withdrawn if they remove the mask while speaking,” Pelosi announced on Tuesday. “The chair appreciates the continued attention of all members and staff to these principles.”
At times, speaking on the House floor is a high-profile occasion, but frequently members address a near-empty chamber primarily so the recorded video can be shown to constituents back home.
It has not yet been determined when members of Congress will receive the newly-released vaccine. Widespread testing was only made available recently on Capitol Hill, with members arriving from all corners of the country including COVID-19 hotspots. A significant number of members of both the House and Senate are in a high-risk group due to their age.
Meanwhile, the top Democrats and Republicans are meeting along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to continue negotiations on COVID-19 relief and a government spending plan.