House Democrats propose $500 fine for members of Congress who don't wear masks

Matthew Brown, USA TODAY

House Democrats are likely to implement a rule in the House of Representatives fining lawmakers $500 for not wearing face masks on the House floor during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a senior Democratic aide not authorized to speak publicly.

Lawmakers will be fined $500 on a first offense and $2,500 for a second offense, and fines will be deducted from their pay, according to the aide. Fines cannot be paid with members' campaign funds or their expense accounts.

The rule will be included in a procedural vote Tuesday evening clearing the way for the House to pass a measure calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Donald Trump from office.

The proposed rule comes after House Reps. Anthony Brown, D-Md., and Debby Dingell, D-Mich., proposed legislation Tuesday that would fine any member of Congress who refuses to wear a mask on Capitol grounds $1,000 for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their bill was filed less than a week after a pro-Trump mob stormed and ransacked the Capitol, causing members of Congress to be in lockdown in secure locations within the Capitol complex, where officials say they may have been exposed to the deadly virus.

“It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask, it is selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk,” Dingell said in a press release. “We’re done playing games. Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It’s not that complicated.”

“No Member of Congress should be able to ignore the rules or put others at risk without penalty,” Brown said. “As the people’s representatives, it is critical that we set an example for the rest of the country. If Members jeopardize the safety of others, they should face fines.”

Many Democratic lawmakers have complained that several Republican colleagues refused to wear personal protective equipment offered during the Capitol riots last week. In the days since, Reps. Bonnie Coleman, D-N.J., Brad Schneider, D-Ill., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., have all tested positive for the virus.

"Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy," Jayapal tweeted after her positive diagnosis.

"Those that flout public health guidance should be sanctioned and immediately removed from the House floor by the Sergeant at Arms for their reckless endangerment of their colleagues," Schneider also said on Twitter.

On Sunday, days after the attack, Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician at the Capitol, said lawmakers could have been exposed while evading the attackers in secure spaces.

"Many members of the House community were in protective isolation in (a) room located in a large committee hearing space," Monahan said in a statement to lawmakers. "The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection."

"You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol," Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with McClatchy.

"Then these individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now," he continued.

Mask-wearing and other preventative measures have become a partisan flashpoint over the course of the pandemic, with some on the right seeing personal and collective public health measures as infringing on their civil liberties.

Dozens of members of Congress have tested positive for the virus. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow died of the virus in late December after being infected.

Both chambers of Congress issued social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines early in the pandemic, though they were not observed by many members.

In July, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a mask mandate after Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, tested positive for the virus after flouting social distancing and mask-wearing ordinances.

Contributing: Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House Democrats propose $500 fine for members who don't wear masks