At least one House Democrat has had enough with Republicans ignoring mask requirements during House committee hearings. Rep. Jim Clyburn, head of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, has written a letter to ranking Republican Steve Scalise warning him that if committee Republicans continue to show up at hearings without masks, those Republicans will not be recognized to speak during subcommittee meetings. At all.
Clyburn was not particularly polite about it, either. In his letter, Clyburn reminds Scalise that it was Scalise who “repeatedly” has wanted in-person hearings and “you assured me that this could be done safely.” But when “every single Republican Member of the Subcommittee refused to comply” with congressional mask rules, Clyburn was fed up.
“I was true to my word—I held this hearing in person, as you requested. Unfortunately, the Republican Members’ refusal to wear masks undermined the safety of everyone in the hearing room.
“Going forward, as long as the Attending Physician’s requirement to wear masks is in place, I will not recognize any Member of this Subcommittee to participate in person in any Subcommittee meeting or hearing unless the Member is wearing a mask and strictly adheres to the Attending Physician’s guidance. Members who do not wish to wear a mask are welcome to participate remotely, in accordance with House Resolution 965.”
Republicans have taken to disrupting House meetings by any means necessary when the subject turns to the potential crimes or proven incompetence of Trump and his officials; the most famous recent example is Rep. Louie Gohmert having a table-banging tantrum in an effort to scuttle witness testimony about Attorney General William Barr’s campaign to reduce or negate federal prosecution of those who lied to cover up foreign election interference on Trump’s behalf.
The refusals to wear masks are similarly partisan, with House Republicans seemingly of the belief that masks, of themselves, are a plot to unnecessarily politicize a pandemic that even Vice President Mike Pence has now suggested will kill at least a quarter million Americans. It would be one thing if this completely insane and cultish belief killed off only the troglodytes refusing to take precautions but, as Clyburn noted, the refusal to adhere to mask guidelines undermines the safety of everyone around them, not just themselves and their fellow buffoons.
Numerous lawmakers, staff members, and White House employees have now tested positive for COVID-19, so the dangers in Congress are no longer hypothetical. We know, for a fact, that COVID-19 is present in the building. If Republicans on Clyburn’s subcommittee don’t want to wear masks, they are cordially invited to pound sand.
The next obvious and necessary steps will be for other committee heads to adopt the same policy, and to refuse entry to non-mask wearers at all. Donald Trump has an excuse: He cannot wear a mask because wearing a mask would cause the five pounds of makeup he trowels on his face each morning to migrate in unexpected directions. Scalise and the other House Republicans are only objecting to mask policies in yet another attempt to suck up to Dear Leader and Dear Leader’s various promoted fictions, and that’s not a good reason for endangering the lives of everyone else in the building.