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In the Capitol, Revival of Mask Mandate Ignites Partisan Recriminations

  • July 28, 2021

The virus is making the doctor’s point. The Senate Homeland Security Committee called off a business meeting where it had been scheduled to advance two key nominees after staff members who came into contact with the panel tested positive for the virus despite being vaccinated, a committee aide said. A vaccinated senior aide to Ms. Pelosi was infected, as were other House and Senate aides.

Yet the Republican response on Capitol Hill has been unequivocal — and angry. An unmasked Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, moved to adjourn the House and forced all its members to convene to vote him down. Moments before, Mr. Roy had elaborately tied the mask mandate to one of Republicans’ choice political issues: the crush of migrants crossing the southwestern border, who he said were “heavily infected.”

“We have a crisis at our border and we are playing footsie with mask mandates in the people’s house,” Mr. Roy said, his voice raised.

While dutifully wearing a mask, Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the Administration Committee, said he worried Dr. Monahan was “getting pressure from the speaker sometimes to issue guidance that is motivated less by science and more by politics.” Republican leaders set up a meeting with their members and the doctor for Wednesday afternoon.

All told, it appeared that a dozen or more Republicans flouted the rule on the House floor. When a staff member handed a mask to one of them, Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, she tossed it back.

House rules say that any lawmaker who does not wear a mask in specified spaces in the Capitol complex can be fined $500 or more.

Democrats, many of them already angry about conservatives stoking vaccine hesitancy, were on a short fuse. Just off the House floor, a masked Representative Jared Huffman, Democrat of California, publicly accosted an unvaccinated Republican colleague, Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, calling him “selfish” for refusing to wear a mask.

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