House Democrats urged the enforcement of face-covering rules on Capitol Hill after a number of GOP lawmakers continue to ignore public health guidelines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The seriousness of the issue resulted in committee chairmen stopping Republican members from speaking in their meetings if they were not wearing masks. More specifically, there have been multiple reports on Republicans choosing not to wear masks, making Democrats uncomfortable that they are not helping to slow the spread of the virus. 

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), chair of the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, cautioned on Monday he would not give speaking time to any committee member not wearing a face-covering during future in-person hearings.

Clyburn addressed the issue to the panel’s top Republican, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (Louisiana), “My Republican colleagues’ refusal to wear masks is perplexing because you have asked repeatedly to hold in-person hearings, and you assured me that this could be done safely. In response, I told you that I would work in good faith to hold in-person hearings if we could do so safely and consistent with the Attending Physician’s guidelines.”

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The letter was written last Friday after a select committee hearing. Democrats and Clyburn himself were upset after seeing a number of GOP members on the dais without wearing masks. Clyburn threatened to halt such meetings until every member complied with the guidelines. 

Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), defended not complying with the face-covering rules, noting that he put on a mask whenever he spoke directly to Rep. Jerry Nadler, who was a seat away.

Jordan responded to Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell after she called him “incredibly disrespectful” for not wearing a mask. “Every time I speak with the chairman, I put a mask on, I maintain proper social distance.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has urged Americans to wear face masks in a speech on the floor on Monday. McConnell told the Senate, “We need new routines, new rhythms, and new strategies for this new middle ground in between. It’s the task of each family, each small business, each employer, and all levels of government to apply common sense and make this happen. To name just one example, we must have no stigma – none – about wearing masks when we leave our homes and near other people.”

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