House lawmakers will no longer need to mask up when heading to the floor to cast votes if they are vaccinated.
Revised coronavirus pandemic guidance from Congress's Attending Physician Brian P. Monahan issued Friday said that fully vaccinated people may be maskless on the House floor, while people who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask.
The guidance marks a change from last month, when the House kept its mask mandates in the chamber despite the Senate floor and other parts of the Capitol turning into masks-optional spaces. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said the face-covering requirement needed to stay in place because not all Republican lawmakers were fully vaccinated.
According to a senior Democratic aide, about 85% of lawmakers are now fully vaccinated, and a decrease in community transmission of the virus led to the announcement.
Some Republicans protested the rule and removed their masks on the House floor, risking incurring a fine taken out of their congressional salaries. The House adopted a rule in January to fine members $500 for a first offense of not wearing a mask and $2,500 for a second offense.
Florida Rep. Brian Mast, who helped lead that protest, celebrated in a tweet: "PELOSI CAVES. FREEDOM PREVAILS."
It is not clear whether or how vaccination status will be checked for those not wearing masks on the House floor. Some representatives who were previously infected with COVID-19, such as Republican Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, have said that they do not need to get vaccinated because they have antibodies that will naturally fight off the virus.
In a bullet point addressing requirements for people who are not fully vaccinated, the new guidance states that "failure to wear a mask in the Hall of the House when required, unless under recognition, may be subject to fines imposed for violation."
Much-loathed metal detectors aiming to prevent lawmakers from bringing firearms onto the House floor will remain at the entrances to the chamber.
The House returns to an in-person session next week.
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Original Author: Emily Brooks
Original Location: House chamber mask mandate lifted and Republicans rejoice