WASHINGTON — A number of House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are wrestling with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the return of a mask mandate in the House, protesting the requirement and even calling for her removal from office.
“That is not a speaker for America. That’s a speaker only concerned about her own wealth, her own direction and our own control,” McCarthy said at a news conference Thursday morning. “This is the people’s house, not Pelosi’s house.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out new recommendations this week over mounting concerns about the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The CDC recommended indoor mask use in areas of the country with high transmission rates after new data suggested that fully vaccinated people not only are contracting Covid-19 but also could be infecting others.
Following the announcement, the attending physician for Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, said in an alert to House members Tuesday that people are required to wear masks again inside the chamber and office buildings and in committee meetings.
That caused an uproar among House members who have been duking it out for months over measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, a dispute about masks, distancing and vaccines that has mirrored national divisions about the measures needed to stop the virus.
“Nancy Pelosi is not the law. This is tyranny,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said Thursday at a news conference held by members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “This is tyranny, and somebody has to say something and do something about it.”
The group of lawmakers, in a united front, urged McCarthy, R-Calif., to call for the removal of Pelosi, D-Calif. Pelosi has criticized House Republicans for failing to vaccinate enough members even though they have priority access to the shots.
Pelosi called McCarthy a “moron” Wednesday after he tweeted Tuesday evening that the new mandate “is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state.”
Pelosi said: “That’s the purview of the Capitol physician, the official capacity, a mandate from him. I have nothing to say about that except we honor it.”
As the week progressed, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., shared a snapshot of a U.S. Capitol Police bulletin that warned that staff members and visitors could be arrested if they don’t comply with the new rules. Cammack captioned the image beginning with “In today’s edition of Pelosi’s abuse of power.”
Capitol Police later clarified in a statement that “there is no reason it should ever come to someone being arrested.”
A Capitol Police spokesman said that the new rule is the same that was in place the last time the House had a mask mandate and that the Constitution says members of Congress are exempt from some arrests, such as those for unlawful entry.
Late Thursday, House Republicans were seen not complying with the latest requirement to wear masks on the floor and protesting the mandate by walking to the Senate, where masks aren’t mandated.
While the Senate has never implemented a mask mandate, unlike the House, the attending physician said in a separate letter to Senate leaders Wednesday evening that he recommends that their members and staffers wear masks indoors to align with the CDC’s recommendation.
Frank Thorp V contributed.