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Lawmakers spar over requirements to wear mask on House floor

House Republicans tried to scrap the requirement for vaccinated members to wear masks in the House chamber and in committee meeting spaces, as lawmakers continue to spar over implementation of coronavirus safety protocols.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained that mask mandates would not be relaxed until all members are vaccinated.

“We have to wait for them to be vaccinated because they are selfishly an endangerment to other people include staff people here,” Pelosi said, adding that relying on the “honor system” wouldn’t be enough at this point to lift the mandate.

“Do you want them breathing in your face on the strength of their honor?” Pelosi said. “We have a responsibility to make sure of that the House of Representatives chamber is not a petri dish because of the selfishness of some not to be vaccinated.”

An analysis by CNN this week found that while all 219 Democrats in the House have reported being vaccinated, fewer than half of the 212 Republican House members have disclosed that they’ve taken a shot. The offices of 112 Republican members didn’t respond to CNN’s inquiries about their vaccination status.

On a party-line vote Wednesday, the House put aside a resolution by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to relax the rules on the mask mandates. McCarthy’s resolution would have also effectively ended fines for members who refuse to wear their masks, which are $500 for the first offense and $2500 for subsequent offenses. The vote came after a group of House Republicans refused to wear masks on the chamber floor on Tuesday, incurring the $500 penalties.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill called McCarthy’s resolution “a sad stunt.”

“If Minority Leader McCarthy wants to be maskless on the Floor of the House of Representatives, he should get to work vaccinating his Members,” Hammill said.

The mask mandate follows guidance from House attending physician Dr. Brian Monahan, despite new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that advise that fully vaccinated individuals may shed their masks indoors. Monahan said in an email to members in staff earlier this week that the mandates should remain in place due to the “substantial number of partially vaccinated, unvaccinated, and vaccine-indeterminate individuals.”

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

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