House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is urging committee chairs to enforce a new requirement to wear masks at all hearings, even authorizing the sergeant at arms to refuse entry to anyone who resists covering their face.
“This requirement will be enforced by the Sergeant at Arms and non-compliant Members will be denied entry,” a senior aide told The Washington Post in an email. “Ultimately, Chairs will have the option of not recognizing Members in committee proceedings that fail to comply with the mask requirement.”
Pelosi had requested new official guidelines from Congress’ attending physician, Brian P. Monahan, based on emerging scientific data that shows consensus around masks as a key to derailing the spread of the coronavirus.
Monahan’s updated guidance, which was issued on Tuesday, now requires face masks in the House for anyone meeting “in a limited enclosed space” for more than 15 minutes.
Under the new guidelines, Congress members will be offered a mask at the committee door. If they opt not to wear it, they’ll be given the option to work remotely and can also participate in hearings virtually.
The move reflects a tightening on mask-wearing on the House floor and around the Capitol since face coverings were only “strongly recommended” but not formally required under Monahan’s earlier guidelines.
Pelosi’s push to enforce mask-wearing comes as nine states hit record highs for infections.
While many Republicans in Congress have worn masks without issue, President Trump routinely refuses to wear masks in public. He has used mask-wearing as a political prop, repeatedly ridiculing opponents for wearing face covering, which he has described as a symbol of political correctness and a trapping of weakness.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) cast a biblical shadow over mask-wearing when he told CNN last month, that wearing a mask was“part of the dehumanization of the children of God” and said anyone wearing one was participating in that dehumanizing act.
Vice President Mike Pence was seen lunching at a diner with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) and others without a mask on Tuesday after penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that swatted away claims about a “second wave” of the coronavirus and attacked news outlets for stoking unreasonable fear around the virus.