On Thursday, a group of around 40 Republican House members barged into the oldest Senate in American history to protest against the reinstated mask mandate in their own chamber by forgoing face coverings and taking selfies.
According to Texas Representative Ronny Jackson, the goal of the stunt was to show “what it was like on the floor of the Senate versus the floor of the House” following Tuesday night’s order from the attending physician of the Capitol requiring face coverings in the House. “Obviously it’s vastly different,” Jackson, the former physician to the president who drank on the job and allegedly sexually harassed subordinates, told the Hill.
Jackson was joined by some of the usual attention-seekers in the Republican caucus — including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Louie Gohmert, and Chip Roy — as the group entered the Senate chamber to support Senator Mike Lee as he questioned the science behind the Centers for Disease Control’s most-recent order on mask mandates in indoor public spaces amid the nationwide spread of the Delta variant.
A day earlier, several of these representatives defied the order to wear a face covering on their side of the Capitol, due to the surge in cases in Washington, D.C. When Boebert was handed a mask by a Democratic staffer on Wednesday, she reportedly dropped it on the ground; Roy said he wanted to “shut the place down” over the mandate. The return of the mask even caused some open sparring between House party leadership. After House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted Tuesday that the “threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC News that he is “such a moron.”
The party line among Republicans lashing out against the mandate boils down to the following question: If the senators don’t have to wear masks, why do we? That line of thinking — a workplace-specific update to the general complaints of pandemic oppression brought up by many Republicans — ignores the fact that all but three Republicans on the Senate side of the building have been vaccinated, while dozens of GOP representatives have declined to say if they’ve got the shot. (Every Democrat in Congress has been vaccinated.) In the past two weeks, two Republican congressmen, Vern Buchanan and Clay Higgins, have tested positive for the virus. Meanwhile, as many Republicans complain about unfair treatment, they are not subject to the new Capitol Police order stating that congressional aides and visitors could face arrest if they don’t wear a mask in the House.