When Congressional representatives fled to safety after Trump-incited insurrectionists breached the House Chamber last Wednesday, they faced a different type of danger of their own making. As Palmer Report told you, several House Republicans shunned Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester when she offered them masks as they sat close together. A week later, we are now seeing the scary and wholly predictable consequences of their pigheadedness unfold.
Congressional Attending Physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan issued a warning over the weekend that lawmakers and staff “may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection” as they sequestered during the Capitol attack. Sure enough, three Democratic representatives—Pramila Jayapal, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Brad Schneider—have announced within a 24-hour period that they tested positive for the coronavirus.
This disturbing development prompted Dr. Anthony Fauci to predict that more lawmakers will get infected. “Of course, when you have people in close indoor settings without social distancing or masks there are likely going to be some infections,” he told The Daily Beast yesterday. Dr. Fauci compared the crowded room to a “subway car during rush hour,” and stressed that it “[d]oesn’t matter who you are.”
All three representatives who have so far tested positive had already received the first dosage of the vaccine and are now in quarantine. Having recently undergone chemotherapy for lung cancer and in her mid-seventies, Rep. Coleman told the Washington Post she was “nervous about spending a week among so many people who regularly flout social distancing and mask guidelines.”
Rep. Schneider released a statement slamming the “selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff.” He then called for sanctions against colleagues who refuse to wear masks and ejection by the Sergeant at Arms. In her own statement, Rep. Jayapal also called for “serious fines” after “several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”
Fortunately, the House last night adopted, 222-204, a rule that threatens lawmakers with fines—$500 for the first offense and $2,500 for the second offense—for mask refusal. The fines get deducted from pay, which means lawmakers won’t be able to use campaign funds to shirk responsibility for their own reckless assault on public health. The GOP is running out of ways to pose a danger to society. Thankfully, they are also running out of time clinging to power.