WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that all members of the House of Representatives would be required to wear masks on the floor, just hours after a Republican who opposed such mandates tested positive for COVID-19.
Pelosi, D-Calif., made the announcement from the House dais, telling members that they will now be required to wear masks on the House floor, in the House halls and in the House office buildings. She said lawmakers could be removed from the floor if they are not wearing a face covering.
“The chair expects all members and staff to adhere to the requirement as a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber,” Pelosi said, adding that a lawmaker not wearing a mask would be considered a “serious breach of decorum.”
The announcement came just hours after it was revealed Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, tested positive for COVID-19, becoming one of about a dozen lawmakers who have the illness, recovered from it or who have antibodies to it.
Gohmert’s diagnosis revived discussions on Capitol Hill about the safety of lawmakers and staff as the coronavirus continues to surge across the nation. It also added pressure on leadership to reexamine protocols because of Gohmert’s resistance to wearing masks and abiding by social distancing guidelines.
More: Rep. Gohmert wonders if wearing a mask led to COVID-19 diagnosis despite health guidance to the contrary
After he tested positive, Gohmert told a local NBC affiliate that he was wondering whether wearing a mask more often recently contributed to him contracting the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly called for Americans to wear masks to help stop the spread of the virus.
“I can’t help but think if I hadn’t been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I wouldn’t have gotten it,” Gohmert said, speculating that he was bound to have “put some virus on the mask” from it “moving around so much.”
Gohmert attended several congressional hearings on Tuesday, including one where Attorney General William Barr testified. Barr, along with many committee staffers and reporters at the Capitol, were tested after Gohmert’s diagnosis. Barr tested negative, the Justice Department said Wednesday night.
Democrats spent much of Wednesday criticizing Gohmert and other Republicans who have criticized wearing masks on Capitol Hill and a proxy voting policy that allows House lawmakers to vote through another lawmaker if they are unable to be on the floor.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., denounced Gohmert’s actions as “irresponsible” and said it was time to reevaluate testing for all members of Congress after leadership declined in May to institute widespread testing because of shortages nationwide.
“To be frank, too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert,” Hoyer said.
A press release on Wednesday said, “Any person not wearing a face cover will be asked to put on a face cover or leave” House office buildings. the building. This requirement will remain in effect until a determination is made that such a requirement is no longer necessary
News – COVID-19: Pelosi mandates masks in House after Gohmert tests positive