House Mask Mandate to Be Lifted Ahead of State of the Union Address

By Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.
February 28, 2022Updated: February 28, 2022

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) controversial House mask mandate has been lifted ahead of President Joe Biden’s March 1 State of the Union address.

Capitol Physician Brian Monahan announced the changes to the law in a Sunday notice obtained by The Epoch Times, in which he said that CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus infection rates at the U.S. Capitol are down to just 2.7 percent, lower than the 4.7 percent infection rates in the larger Washington metro area.

“Individuals may choose to mask at any time,” Monahan said, “but it is no longer a requirement.”

“KN95 or N95 mask wear [sic] is no longer required,” Monahan emphasized later. “Mask wear is now an individual choice option.”

The announcement seems to be in contravention to an earlier statement that suggested that Biden would put strict rules in place for his visit to Capitol Hill.

“For the 2022 State of the Union, coronavirus safety measures emphasize a negative PCR test one day before the event, the wearing of a high-quality, properly fitted, medical-grade filtration mask (KN95 or N95) at all times, an attestation of a negative health screening inventory and social distancing separation of seating,” read the rules, shared by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Twitter.

In a “dear colleague” letter, House Sergeant at Arms William Walker shed light on the reason for the decision, and admitted that the vaccinated comprise most cases of the CCP virus in the Capitol.

“Eighty-nine percent of coronavirus infections at the Capitol occur in vaccinated individuals,” Walker said.

The move comes after the CDC made sweeping changes to its mask suggestions on Feb. 25.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans don’t need to wear masks because they live in areas with low or medium community risk of hospitalization from COVID, the CDC said.

Across the nation, several states with Democrat governors have lifted their mask mandates citing similar decreases in cases.

In addition, the Omicron variant of the CCP virus, which has become the most common across the United States, has been extremely mild in comparison to other variants of the disease.

Pelosi’s House mask mandate has long been controversial with GOP lawmakers, and some have flouted the rule in protest of the mandate.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has racked up over $70,000 in fines for her refusal to wear a mask, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the policy.

In a statement to the Epoch Times, Greene blasted not only House mask mandates but also mask mandates across the country.

“Over the past year and a half, communist Democrats have ruled our country as tyrannical dictators with mandates and lockdowns,” Greene said. “Now, the American people have had enough and are standing up against these outrageous and unconstitutional policies.”

Other Republicans have argued that the mandate’s imposition of fines violates the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), after being fined $500, argued in his appeal that the fines violate the 27th Amendment (pdf).

The 27th Amendment, the most recent change to the Founders’ original framework, is a simple one, meant to guarantee that members of Congress cannot immediately change their own pay; Under the rules laid out in the amendment, any change in compensation must not occur until the next Congress is seated.

Good argued that by garnishing the wages of House lawmakers, the fine changed members’ salary in the same Congress, violating the 27th Amendment’s prohibition against such changes. Other GOP lawmakers have agreed with the criticism.

However, the Supreme Court has refused to hear any cases contesting the rule, saying that the House has the ability to set its own rules and that these rules lay outside the jurisdiction of the federal court system.

Pelosi has often contended that she defers to the Capitol physician in deciding whether and when to lift the mandate, though the rule was originally put in place by Pelosi and her caucus.

The mask mandate was introduced in early 2021 and passed through the House by a 222–204 vote with no Republican support.

The measure directed the House Sergeant-at-Arms “to impose a $500 fine for a first offense and a $2,500 fine for any subsequent offense against a Member, Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner for failure to wear a mask in contravention of the Speaker’s announced policies of January 4, 2021.”

Pelosi had earlier put the mandate in place for all members, but the party-line resolution cemented the speaker’s diktat as a finable offense; fines are withdrawn from members’ paychecks.

The mandate was temporarily lifted during the summer of 2021 before being re-imposed in July. Pelosi cited the growth of the Delta variant of the CCP virus as her reason for reinstating the mandate.

After the new mandate was announced in July, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a tweet condemned the decision to reimpose mask mandates.

“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 wrote.

Other controversial measures purportedly designed to respond to the CCP virus remain in place.

One such measure is the proxy voting procedure, which allows lawmakers to stay home and have other members who are present vote for them in their absence.

Democrats dominated the controversial practice in 2021 according to a study released by the Republican-leaning Ripon Society, which found that Democrats cast 72.5 percent of all proxy votes.

This measure, like the mask mandate, has faced sharp criticism from House Republicans.

In a Jan. 12 speech on the House floor, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) criticized the practice, which she called “asinine.”

“Have House Democrats become so averse to work that they now believe voting from their couches is a viable option?” Foxx asked. “It is time to end proxy voting once and for all. It is one of the many blemishes that have been put on this great body under one-party rule.”

Foxx has said that if Republicans take the majority in November—as they are widely expected by observers to do—they will undo this measure if it remains in place.

Zachary Steiber and Nick Ciolino contributed to this report.