Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is seen after her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, February 11, 2021.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday for criticizing the decision to reintroduce mask requirements in the House of Representatives, after the Capitol physician recommended doing so due to concern over the fast spreading delta variant.
Pelosi reportedly called McCarthy “such a moron” for opposing the reintroduction of mask mandates. The House speaker’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said he could not verify that she called the Republican minority leader the name due to poor audio quality.
Hammill did confirm, however, that Pelosi believes opposing mask requirements as contrary to science is “moronic.”
McCarthy expressed his criticism for the mandate late Tuesday, after the Capitol physician recommended that members of Congress resume wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
“Make no mistake—The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state,” McCarthy tweeted.
When asked about Pelosi’s comment, McCarthy challenged the House speaker to explain the science behind the mask mandate.
“If she’s so brilliant can she tell me where the science changes in the building between the House and the Senate,” McCarthy told reporters.
“Can she explain to me when the CDC says only vaccinated people need to wear a mask in hot spots? Can she explain to me if DC is a hot spot when it’s clarified by everybody else it’s not with more than 86 percent of vaccination within here? Can she explain to me the less then 1 percent infected there? So a lot of questions,” he continued.
The CDC partially reversed its mask guidance on Tuesday, recommending that people in areas with high Covid transmission rates resume wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
DC’s level of community transmission of the virus is “moderate,” according to the CDC’s data tracker that is updated daily. However, Capitol physician Dr. Brian Monahan said the mask requirement is necessary again because some individuals in Congress are travelling to areas with high transmission rates.
Tension over the mask mandate also boiled over on the House floor Wednesday morning.
The House is voting to adjourn the day, a motion offered by GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas in protest over the House’s compliance with the mask requirement.
In a speech, Roy questioned why people should be required to wear masks if they have been vaccinated.
“I’d like Dr. Fauci to come down and answer a single question about natural immunity. If you have been infected with the virus, do you have immunity? Or are they going to go around poking people saying you must take a vaccine?” Roy said in a speech on the House floor Wednesday.
“Oh but sorry, the vaccine doesn’t work, you must wear a mask. This institution is a sham. We should adjourn and shut this place down.”
The CDC changed its mask guidance for the vaccinated due to mounting concern over the rapidly spreading delta variant, which has become the dominant strain worldwide including in the U.S.. Though vaccines remain highly effective in prevent severe illness and death from Covid, there is growing evidence that people who are immunized can still transmit the virus to others.
“This is some serious nanny state stuff that will only breed resentment. No kidding. Consider resentment being magnified right here on the floor of the House of Representatives,” Roy said. “We are absolutely sick and tired of it. So are the American people. This sham of an institution is doing nothing for the American people.
Several other GOP representatives have opposed the requirement, including Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
On Tuesday, Greene and two other Republican representatives filed a lawsuit accusing Pelosi of violating the Constitution when their paychecks were docked for refusing to wear masks on the House floor earlier this year. Greene, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina were each fined $500 for refusing to comply with rules mandating masks on the House floor.
In accordance with the updated CDC guidance, President Joe Biden and White House officials announced Tuesday that they will resume wearing masks indoors when traveling to areas of the U.S. with high Covid transmission rates. Biden also encouraged Americans to do the same.
“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it; I certainly will when I travel to these areas,” Biden said in a statement following the updated guidance.
Biden is also expected to announce this week that his administration will require federal workers to be vaccinated, NBC News reported Wednesday, or they will be subject to strict testing measures.
The president said on Tuesday that the vaccine requirement was “under consideration.”
The Biden administration had previously discouraged federal agencies from requiring a vaccine mandate for on-site work.
But the Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday that it would order its health-care workers to get vaccinated, becoming the first federal agency to do so.
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