On the same day that anti-mask crusader Louie Gohmert, a Republican representative from Texas, tested positive for COVID-19, a flood of GOP staffers spilled their guts about the ridicule and derision they face when trying to stay safe on Capitol Hill during a global pandemic.
One thing that’s clear: Some Republican lawmakers really don’t want their staffers wearing masks. Here’s what some staffers told Politico’s Playbook:
“While mask use isn’t banned, it’s also not encouraged, and has been derided on several occasions by the [chief of staff] and the member.”
“Ridiculing people for wearing masks is also not uncommon.”
Working from home is also forbidden in the offices of some Republicans:
“Our office has been required to be fully staffed since session resumed at the end of June.”
“I think you’d find a lot of offices in the anti-mask brigade are forcing staff to report to work even if they have legitimate concerns about their health.”
“I work in a Republican House office and while we’re not encouraged to not wear a mask, we are essentially required to work in the office. We worked from home for a couple days when one of my coworkers was potentially exposed to Covid, but even then, many of my colleagues kept working in the office.”
A tech staffer who enters both Republican and Democratic told Politico that mask-wearing is “nearly universal in Democratic offices” and “probably under 50%” in GOP offices. The staffer said they are sometimes quizzed about why they’re wearing a mask when entering Republican offices: “Some GOP offices ask why you are wearing a mask, which puts our staff in an awkward position — do you say because of the pandemic and risk the office taking that as a political stand? Do you take it off to make them feel better?”
Mask-wearing should become more common among House Republicans, at least if members are willing to listen to Nancy Pelosi. On Wednesday, the House Speaker ordered all members to wear masks on the House floor and in Capitol hallways. If they don’t, things could get ugly, she warned. “The speaker has the authority to direct the sergeant at arms to remove a member from the floor as a matter of decorum,” Pelosi said.