GOP Reps. Greene, Clyde accrue nearly $150K in combined mask fines

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Two Georgia Republicans - Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde - have been fined a combined nearly $150,000 for defying the requirement that everyone wear a mask in the House chamber during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to documents that Greene's office shared with The Hill, she has been fined at least 36 times for a total of $88,000 as of Jan. 11.

The House Ethics Committee also disclosed Tuesday that Clyde has been fined at least 25 times since September, meaning he has been issued fines totaling at least $60,500.

That means the two lawmakers have accrued at least $148,500 in combined fines. The fines start at $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.

House Democrats enacted the fines to enforce the chamber's mask mandate a year ago after several Republicans, including Greene, declined to wear facial coverings while lawmakers were crowded in a secure space during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The fines are deducted from lawmakers' salaries and cannot be paid for with campaign or office budget funds.

Rank-and-file members of Congress earn $174,000 annually, while those in certain leadership positions, such as the Speaker, make more.

Greene has previously defended the increasingly costly protest against House Democrats' mask requirement as a way to show solidarity with people resisting pandemic-related mandates regarding masks or vaccines.

"Well, you know what's really expensive? People getting fired for not taking a vaccine that they feel they don't need," Greene, who has said she is not vaccinated, told The Hill in November.

Lawmakers have 30 days to file appeals to the Ethics Committee to dismiss the fines. Greene and Clyde have tried to appeal some of the fines, but the Ethics Committee rejected them.

Several other Republicans have also been fined at least once in the past year for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor: Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa), Bob Good (Va.), Mary Miller (Ill.), Chip Roy (Texas), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Brian Mast (Fla.), Beth Van Duyne (Texas) and Thomas Massie (Ky.).

Most House Republicans have not been repeat offenders like Greene and Clyde. Miller-Meeks has been fined twice for not wearing a mask, while the others have only been fined once.

In recent weeks, House Democratic leaders have urged everyone to wear more protective masks like N95s or KN95s instead of cloth or surgical masks amid the nationwide surge in cases due to the omicron variant of COVID-19.

They're also urging lawmakers not to congregate on the House floor during votes, after many lawmakers had grown more comfortable doing so in recent months before omicron emerged.

But so far, there's little that Democrats have been able to do to enforce masks beyond the fines.

The fourth-ranking House Democrat, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (Mass.), urged the sergeant-at-arms last week to force lawmakers who refuse to wear masks to cast votes from enclosures in the House gallery above the floor.

"This callous disregard for House rules endangers the health of members of Congress and the professional staff whose physical presence is required to ensure continuity of government," Clark wrote in the letter to House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker.

"That is why, in addition to imposing fines, I am requesting that your office begin requiring members who fail to comply with this rule to attend the House floor from the isolation boxes in the House gallery," Clark wrote.

The mask mandate, which has been in effect since July 2020, applies to the entire House side of the Capitol and surrounding office buildings. But lawmakers are only subject to fines on the House floor and not any surrounding hallways.

Lawmakers do not have to wear masks on the House floor while they are recognized to speak during debate.

Walker himself acknowledged during testimony before members of the House Appropriations Committee last week that he's had difficulty enforcing the mask mandate.

"I see people - members, staff - without masks. And I'll walk up to them and I'll ask them to put the mask on. And some just walk away from me. Some put it on," Walker said.

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