House GOP push back on extended COVID-19 regulations at Capitol

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House Republicans are pushing back on recently-issued guidance calling on members to wear masks in certain areas on the Capitol and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to extend proxy voting through early July — arguing, with most members being vaccinated, that Congress should return to regular order. 

Capitol Attending Physician Brian Monahan released updated guidance on Monday, clarifying that vaccinated members are still required to wear their masks in committee gathering spaces and on the House floor, despite being allowed to go sans-mask in the hallways of the Capitol’s campus. 

Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), a doctor by trade prior to being elected, submitted comments into the record during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Tuesday pushing back on the requirement, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks indoors.

“It’s safe to assume that Dr Moynihan’s first response to the CDC guidelines was his medical decision making based on the several studies supporting the CDC’s decision,” Green told The Post, pointing out that the Capitol Attending Physician had originally agreed that masks were unnecessary for vaccinated individuals, before changing his tune days later.

“Why then did he change his mind? Did new data come out in the four days that caused him to change his recommendations? I certainly haven’t seen that. The CDC and the studies are clear. The science is clear. Vaccinated people do not need a mask.”

Top GOP lawmakers in the House are weighing forcing a vote on the floor as soon as Wednesday pushing back against the requirements, with several members stating they feel like they need to demonstrate that Americans need to “trust the science” when it comes to vaccines. 

Republicans have also been highly critical of Pelosi’s move to extend remote voting, noting roughly three-fourths of House lawmakers have received the vaccine. GOP members have pushed back on proxy voting since its implementation last spring, with critics arguing that lawmakers should be treated as essential workers. 

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, led the efforts on a letter to Pelosi calling on her to return to pre-COVID procedure. 

“We write today to request that you cease all proxy voting measures and all remote committee proceedings in the House of Representatives for the remainder of the 117th Congress.” the lawmakers wrote. 

“It is time we follow the science, lead by example, and fully return to work to serve the American people. More than 272 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and at least 75 percent of members of Congress have been fully vaccinated, with all members and congressional staff having access to the vaccine.” 

The group cited Monahan’ guidance from Thursday stating that members could resume pre-pandemic activities while laying out their case against the extension of proxy voting. 

“On May 15, 2020, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to allow proxy voting and remote committee proceedings. All members of the Republican party and even three Democrats voted against this measure; however, since its passage and continuation in the House Rules for the 117th Congress, members have voted by proxy countless times and no fully in-person public committee meetings have occurred,” they continued. 

“The flawed system of proxy voting and extended vote times has led to exorbitant delays on the House floor. In addition, burdensome virtual committee hearings permeated with technical difficulties have failed to deliver timely debate and quality legislation on behalf of the American people. While we appreciate that the COVID-19 crisis yielded unprecedented circumstances, there is simply no scientific or public health need to continue entertaining these restrictive practices.”

The letter was signed by Reps. GT Thompson (R-Pa.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.), Kevin Brady (R-Texas), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), James Comer (R-Ky.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Mike Bost (R-Ill.), William Timmons (R-S.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Garret Graves (R-La.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), all of whom serve as ranking members on committees. 

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