House mask fines put in place by Pelosi face lawsuit from Republican lawmakers

House mask fines put in place by Pelosi face lawsuit from Republican lawmakers
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A handful of Republican House members filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Speaker Nancy Pelosi over fines imposed on them for violating the chamber’s mask mandate put in place amid COVID-19 social distancing rules.

Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and Ralph Norman of South Carolina announced Monday their lawsuit against not just the speaker but also House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker and Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor.

"We are fighting this fight because if they can get away with this in Congress, they’ll do the same things to our kids when they go back to school, they’ll do the same things to hard working Americans in their workplaces, and they’ll do the same things to our soldiers," Massie said in a statement. "We are standing up to Pelosi for the American people who are tired of mask mandates, vaccine coercion, and violations of basic constitutional rights.”

The lawmakers argue in their suit that the “defendants improperly chose to fine Plaintiffs through an imminent reduction in their compensation. Plaintiffs, all of whom are members of Congress belonging to the minority party, engaged in the symbolic speech of not wearing a mask on the Congressional floor in defiance.”

The 27th Amendment of the Constitution was violated in this case, the plaintiffs say, “as an anti-corruption measure designed to prevent Congress from increasing, decreasing, or limiting compensation as a cudgel against political opponents,” and that the defendants used the reduction of plaintiffs’ “compensation without an intervening election as a cudgel against Plaintiffs, who are all political opponents of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

The GOP lawmakers also argue that Article I, Section 5, only allows Congress to punish disorderly behavior as well as a claim that compensation for members of Congress must be set by "law" and the mask rules in question are not a "law."

Finally, the Republican plaintiffs say in their suit that their First Amendment rights were violated by the House speaker because her mask rule "serves as an example of unconstitutional compelled speech. Furthermore, the mask rule is being enforced in a partisan and viewpoint."

Each GOP lawmaker lost their appeals to the House Ethics Committee last week when they challenged their fines to the panel. The trio argued in June to the committee, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, that the mandate did not correspond with the recent federal guidance on face coverings during the pandemic.

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The committee rejected the appeals a week after U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance stating that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.”

Democrats implemented a rule earlier in the year that fined lawmakers who went maskless on the floor of the chamber. Violators would be fined $500 on the first offense and $2,500 on the second. The fines would be garnered from the salaries of lawmakers committing the offenses.

Following the May CDC guidance, Dr. Brian Monahan, Congress’s attending physician, wrote that “mask requirement and other guidelines remain unchanged until all Members and floor staff are fully vaccinated.”

Pelosi refused to remove the mandate, however, which led to a revolt of maskless Republican lawmakers on the House floor, who demanded the speaker lift the mandate and follow the CDC guidance.

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The mask mandate was lifted for fully vaccinated individuals in June. But congressional leadership is considering re-imposing the order since a spike in COVID-19 cases arose in the last few weeks.

A similar lawsuit filed last month by Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia challenged the chambers' metal detectors placed at each entrance of the floor. Both Clyde and Gohmert were fined thousands of dollars and lost their appeals before the Ethics Committee.

The suits over House rules and procedures likely face long odds in federal courts. Judges have been reluctant to insert themselves into internal legislative matters.

In August 2020, federal District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras dismissed a lawsuit from Republicans aimed at stopping proxy voting in the House of Representatives.

Pelosi put the rule in place as a health measure in reaction to COVID-19. House Republicans said proxy voting is unconstitutional. But Contreras said the case was beyond his purview and that the matter at hand was purely a legislative decision.

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Tags: News, Nancy Pelosi, lawsuit, Face masks, Congress

Original Author: Kerry Picket

Original Location: House mask fines put in place by Pelosi face lawsuit from Republican lawmakers

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