Pelosi Mandates Mask-Wearing in House Chamber

By Melanie Arter | July 30, 2020 | 11:39am EDT
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sits during the funeral of late Senator and Civil Rights leader John Lewis at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on July 30, 2020. (Photo by ALYSSA POINTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sits during the funeral of late Senator and Civil Rights leader John Lewis at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on July 30, 2020. (Photo by ALYSSA POINTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

( – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a proclamation on Wednesday mandating that masks be worn by House members and staff “at all times in the hall of the House,” except when speaking after being formally recognized.

“The chair will take this occasion to make an announcement concerning the wearing of masks in the hall of the House during the coronavirus pandemic. Under Clause 2 of Rule 1, the chair is required to preserve order and decorum in the chamber. This includes the responsibility to ensure the protection of member and staff safety and health during proceedings. This responsibility is of paramount importance, particularly in the midst of a pandemic,” she said.

"To that end, the chair announces that during the presence of a covered period, pursuant to House Resolution 965, members and staff will be required to wear masks at all times in the hall of the House, except that members may remove their masks temporarily when recognized,” the speaker said.

“The chair expects all members and staff to adhere to this requirement as a sign of respect for the health, safety, and well-being of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas. The chair would further inform members and staff that they will not be permitted to enter the hall of the House without wearing a mask,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi’s decision came the same day that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) tested positive for the coronavirus. He was set to travel with the president to Texas for a fundraiser but testing positive Wednesday morning during a pre-flight screening at the White House. Press reports noted that Gohmert frequently refused to wear a mask.

In an interview with CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Pelosi said that the proclamation she issued applies to the hall of the House.

“The members can't come onto the floor of the House unless they have a mask, and I, the speaker, directed the sergeant at arms, the Capitol Police to refuse entry into the hall if people don't have on a mask, and we have masks there for them,” she said.

“The sergeant at arms will issue the regulations and the rest probably tomorrow and with it what goes with it for the other rooms in the capitol, other what happens in the other office buildings that are on Capitol Hill. So that expanded announcement won't probably happen tomorrow,” the speaker added. 

Anderson noted that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that COVID-19 testing would be critical at the Capitol because people could be there and have it and not know it. Cooper said it’s extraordinary that people can’t get tests and it takes two weeks for people to get test results.

“Well, when the White House originally suggested that they had enough tests to send us, I consulted with a Capitol physician and really, we're not, it's just not the members of Congress. It's the members of Congress and support staff, and that's very many people. We can't say well, as members we should get tested but the other people shouldn't, but it points to the challenge that we have in the country,” Pelosi said. 

“We have the tools at our disposal - testing, tracing, treatment, isolation, mask wearing, sanitation to hold this virus in check, to try to beat it. Hopefully, we will have a vaccine or some therapies that will be helpful, but we don't have them to a full extent now, certainly not a vaccine, and until we do, we have to do what can,” the speaker said.

“Other countries have done it. It works, but in order for us to do it in the capital with everybody there as well as in the country, we need more equipment, and the reason everybody isn't tested, because there isn't enough equipment to test everyone, and then we don't have enough equipment to get the results of the test. Sometimes it takes a week to get the results, almost useless by then, and then we need the PPE, the personal protective equipment for the people administering the test on our health care providers and teachers and others to have that equipment,” she said.

“So we’ve asked the president to have the Defense Production Act going into action to insist that our businesses produce this equipment. He just won't do it. He hasn't done it. We have this plan in our Heroes Act. This is a way for us to open our economy, facilitate opening our schools by reducing the rate of infection in our communities, but in order to do that, we have to know what it is, and that requires testing, tracing, treatment, et cetera,” Pelosi said.

The speaker said that Gohmert took part in two hearings on Tuesday “largely without a mask,” which she called “very irresponsible.” House members were “very unhappy,” because he interacted with House members and staff, she said.

“So again, I want to come back to us. We should have it. I will leave the judgment up to the Capitol physician about whether we have the equipment and the rest to just test members,” Pelosi said. 

“That doesn’t seem enough, but it is -- there is great cause for alarm in the Capitol when people found out that Congressman Gohmert had been tested the way he had and participated in two hearings yesterday largely without a mask, very irresponsible on his part, and members were very unhappy, because he interacted with other members but other staff, as well,” she said.

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