Group of House GOP lawmakers removes masks in chamber on Tuesday

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WASHINGTON – A group of House GOP lawmakers refused to wear face masks on the floor during votes on Tuesday in defiance of leadership's COVID-19 protocols.

House Democrats imposed a rule in January that said members would be fined $500 on a first offense and $2,500 for a second offense if they did not wear a mask on the House floor.

A Capitol official told USA TODAY that three Republicans will be issued $500 fines for defying the mask rules: Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Beth Van Duyne of Texas, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa.

Seven other Republicans will be issued warnings: Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas, Bob Good of Virginia, Mary Miller of Illinois, and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

If these lawmakers defy the rules again, they could face either $500 or $2,500 fines, respectively.

Mast was first approached by a staff member of the House sergeant-at-arms during votes and refused to put a mask on. Then others followed suit.

These included Miller, who sat in the front row next to Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., neither donning a face covering.

Greene , Massie and Boebert stood at the front of the chamber, talking and laughing.

Van Duyne and Good sat amid a sea of their masked colleagues, while Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., wheeled himself into the chamber with a face covering and whipped it off after he sat in a chair.

The confrontation follows loosened masked guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who are fully vaccinated, even indoors, except in crowded indoor settings.

But not every House Republican is vaccinated.

Massie, who CNN has reported is not vaccinated, tweeted repeatedly about the group of members not wearing masks. Massie tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in July. The CDC recommends people still get vaccinated regardless of whether they have had coronavirus, because experts still aren't sure how long natural protection will last.

More: New mask guidelines: Great for some, confusing for others. What experts say this does to the CDC's credibility.

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A few other members, such as Greene, would not say whether they have been vaccinated.

At one point, when several of the maskless members had congregated near the front of the chamber, Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., approached them and confronted Massie about not wearing a mask. Massie could be heard responding: "I can't hear you" with the mask.

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Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., vice chair of the Committee on House Administration, then approached the group and spoke with Massie, Boebert and Greene for an extended, heated conversation. Raskin then walked away, shaking his head.

When asked what they spoken about, Raskin told USA TODAY he was telling the group of Republicans that “100% of the Democrats have been vaccinated so the only reason we can’t take our masks off on the floor is because of them."

Raskin said the Republicans had responded they "were having a civil disobedience protest" to which he sarcastically compared them to "21st century Freedom Riders."

The Republicans are doing "the House a disservice, the country a disservice. I think they'd be sending a much stronger message if they got vaccinated. If all of us were vaccinated, we can all take our masks off. That would be the message," Raskin added.

Raskin later told USA TODAY, "I’m not interested in them getting fined. I’m interested in them getting vaccinated.”

Afterward, Mast told reporters that it was the "best $500 I ever spent.” The group wouldn't elaborate on whether they were all vaccinated.

POLITICO reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is planning a privileged motion on the mask rules Wednesday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Group of House GOP lawmakers remove masks in Chamber