A mix of fines and warnings were handed down to a group of House Republicans on Tuesday who had defied the chamber’s mask mandate on the House floor, a Capitol official told CNN.
Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Beth Van Duyne of Texas all received $500 fines for second offenses of the mask mandate, the official said. Additional offenses of the mandate would result in $2,500 fines.
Additional Republican lawmakers received first offense warnings, the official told CNN, including Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas, Bob Good of Virginia, Mary Miller of Illinois and Louie Gohmert of Texas.
Current House rules state that members can remove their masks on the floor only when they are recognized by the chair to speak. The chair may also remove their mask when speaking from the dais.
Tuesday’s protest — which Massie took the lead in organizing, according to a source with knowledge of the planning — saw the lawmakers maskless without being recognized in open defiance of the mandate.
The demonstration came after a group of GOP members sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier Tuesday urging her to rescind a decision to extend proxy voting in the House through July 3 and requesting the resumption of full in-person committee hearings. The letter also called for an end to virtual committee hearings, claiming that “Ineffective remote procedures have hindered Congressional operations for too long and should not continue.”
Massie had told CNN as he walked through the metal detectors without a mask to “stay tuned” when asked if he would wear one on the House floor. Greene, meanwhile, posted a picture of herself smiling and standing alongside several other members on Twitter with a caption deriding face masks as “oppressive.”
Republican Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia told CNN that “I’m vaccinated” when asked why he had decided to not wear a mask. He said he was “not aware” of a fine for not wearing one and added: “If you look at the video of what’s happening on the floor, there are a lot of people that aren’t wearing their masks.”
Later, however, Scott came back for the next round of votes with a mask. He told CNN that he had checked and realized that he would be fined for not wearing a mask on the House floor.
“I wasn’t trying to be belligerent,” Scott explained.
The disagreements over mask wearing prompted what appeared to be a heated exchange between Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and the group of maskless Republicans.
“We should be protesting them,” Raskin said he had told the group, pointing to the lower vaccination rate among House Republicans.
Raskin said Massie had told him that since he had already had Covid-19, “he views himself as having equally strong immunities to someone who got the vaccine.” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people previously infected still get vaccinated.
Raskin said he then had raised the question of people who had gotten neither the virus nor the vaccine.
“They said no because they said it would be a violation of their right to decide for themselves. So I said, ‘well, undoubtedly all of them are pro-choice?’ [They said], ‘Absolutely not, it’s a totally different thing.’ “
Raskin added: “We got into it. I think they are doing the House a disservice and the country a disservice.”
“I said, ‘Hey, you guys are just like 21st century freedom riders. John Lewis would be so proud,’ ” Raskin said. “The irony may have been lost on them. I don’t know.”
According to a recent CNN survey, 100% of congressional Democrats and 92% of Senate Republicans had been vaccinated against Covid-19, while only 44.8% of House Republicans were.
The House passed a change to its rules in May 2020 in the early months of the pandemic, allowing lawmakers to designate proxies to vote on their behalf by sending letters to the House clerk.
In the Senate, there is no mask mandate, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who’s a New York Democrat, and others have been spotted entering the floor maskless this week.