- A top Democrat is asking the House Sergeant at Arms to force maskless lawmakers to vote from the gallery.
- Rep. Katherine Clark noted that fines hadn’t deterred people like Marjorie Taylor Greene from going maskless.
- But Greene told Insider that members at risk for COVID “may not be fit to do the job.”
A top House Democratic lawmaker is asking the House Sergeant at Arms to require maskless members of Congress to cast their votes from “isolation boxes” in the House gallery above the main floor, citing the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
In a letter on Tuesday, Assistant House Speaker Rep. Katherine Clark said that “fines have proven insufficient to prevent some Members from repeatedly violating” the House’s mask-wearing rules, which include a $500 fine for the first offense and $2,500 for each offense after that.
“This commonsense step will not only protect our dedicated House staff from Members who refuse to follow House rules, but it will also allow those members to continue to fulfill their constitutional duty to vote on matters before the House.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who’s repeatedly ignored the masking rules, was dismissive of the idea in a brief phone call with Insider on Tuesday. She suggested that members who feel threatened by the virus aren’t fit to serve in Congress.
“I’ll argue that they may not be fit to do the job,” said Greene. “Maybe they need to consider that they are the ones in the risk group, and they should just go sit it out until they feel safe to come out.”
The fines for failing to wear a mask are deducted from members’ paychecks, and Greene and fellow Georgia GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde have together lost over $100,000 from their salaries due to repeated violations of the rule, which Clark noted in her letter.
—Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) January 11, 2022
House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer is also advising members to wear N95 or KN95 masks on the House floor, regardless of vaccination status, and is strongly discouraging congregating during votes. Ahead of votes on Tuesday, Insider saw GOP Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois walk into the Capitol building maskless, only to be handed a KN95 mask before entering the House chamber.
“Does Nancy have one of these? She had a cloth one yesterday,” she said, making a sarcastic reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
During the pandemic, the House has instituted a “proxy voting” system that allows members to designate another member to vote for them, allowing them to avoid the chamber if they’re worried about the COVID-19 risk.
Greene called the House’s rules illogical, citing the fact that the mask mandate only applies in the chamber itself, and said that only those who are in at-risk groups should be concerned about the virus. “Most of Congress is vaccinated, so if vaccines work, they should feel completely safe,” she said.
The Georgia Republican also brought up Ivermectin, a drug that the FDA explicitly advises against using to treat COVID-19. While Greene declined to say whether she herself has contracted COVID or used the drug, she said her husband had.
“I can tell you right now,” she said. “There’s a lot of members of Congress that have taken it. And I’ve known a lot of people that have taken ivermectin and got well.”
Greene also noted that the isolation boxes were initially created to allow COVID-positive members of Congress to attend votes, which was important as Pelosi sought to whip votes for the speakership in 2021. “Now all of a sudden, it has to turn into, oh no, we’re gonna put the people in the box who aren’t wearing a mask,” said Greene.
Asked what she would do if Clark’s request is approved, Greene was unsure.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I mean, this has never happened before in the history of our country.”