Congress members could face $1,000 fine for not wearing a face mask under proposed legislation

Some Republican lawmakers did not wear masks while locked down amid Capitol siege

FILE - In this July 29, 2020 file photo, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust on Capitol Hill in Washington. A second Democratic member of the House who was forced to go into lockdown during last weeks violent protest has tested positive for COVID-19. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington says she has tested positive. She criticized Republican members of Congress who declined to wear a mask when it was offered to them. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP) (Graeme Jennings)

Lawmakers are proposing that members of Congress should be fined if they do not wear a face mask on Capitol grounds after several representatives tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from Michigan and Congressman Anthony Brown from Maryland introduced new legislation on Tuesday that would fine any Congress member $1,000 if they refuse to wear a face mask on Capitol grounds during the pandemic. The legislation comes after multiple lawmakers tested positive for the virus this week following the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 -- a potential super-spreader event.

“It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask, it is selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk,” Congresswoman Dingell said in a statement Tuesday. “Days ago, a colleague of ours died from this virus and left behind a beautiful, young family to mourn his loss. Yet still, in the midst of a deadly assault on our United States Capitol, a number of our Republican colleagues laughed off rules designed to keep not just their colleagues safe, but to protect the lives of the teams of workers keeping things going, law enforcement, and staff throughout the Capitol. Now, three of our colleagues are suffering from the virus.

“We’re done playing games,” Dingell added. “Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It’s not that complicated.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, representatives at the U.S. Capitol were whisked to secure locations as a mob of pro-Trump rioters -- some armed -- stormed and ransacked Capitol buildings. Some lawmakers were in protective isolation in a large room together for “several hours,” while others were huddled together for a shorter period of time, according to the Capitol’s attending physician Dr. Brian Moynihan.

On Sunday, Moynihan notified all lawmakers that they may have been exposed to an individual infected with COVID who was present at the Capitol that day. He urged all lawmakers to get tested for the virus.

More: Possible virus exposure for lawmakers sheltering during riot

According to officials, representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Pramila Jayapal and Brad Schneider have tested positive for COVID this week.

Several lawmakers expressed concern after videos surfaced of Republican lawmakers not wearing face masks while everyone was locked down together amid the siege. Newly-elected Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a presidential ally aligned with a pro-Trump conspiracy group, was among those Republicans not wearing masks last week.

Rep. Jayapal tweeted about her COVID diagnosis Tuesday, saying she was under lockdown at the Capitol on Jan. 6 where “several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”

“Members refusing to mask and distance in the Capitol put other Members, aides, support staff and their families at risk,” Congressman Brown said in a statement. “There must be consequences for selfish and reckless actions that endanger the lives of others. No Member of Congress should be able to ignore the rules or put others at risk without penalty. As the people’s representatives it is critical that we set an example for the rest of the country. If Members jeopardize the safety of others they should face fines.”

Officials say the new legislation would amend the U.S. House rules and, if passed, would be in effect until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems it safe not to wear a mask.

Face masks have proven effective at curbing the spread of coronavirus and, to a certain degree, help protect the wearer from catching the virus, as well.

See: Guidance on which masks work best, which ones to avoid, according to Michigan health department

Click here for more coronavirus guidelines from the CDC

Related: Trump takes no responsibility for Capitol attack, says remarks were ‘totally appropriate’

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.