House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of Calif., speaks during her weekly briefing, Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
UPDATED 9:22 AM PT – Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been pushing a new congressional mask mandate while threatening to silence those that do not comply. During the House’s pro forma session Tuesday, she announced an update to social distancing policies she previously unveiled.
“Accordingly, masks will now be required at all times in the hall of the House without exception, including while members are under recognition,” announced the Speaker.
Under the new mandate, representatives and hill staffers will be required to wear a mask whenever they are conducting business on the hill. For lawmakers, Pelosi’s apparent definition of “conducting business” includes everything from walking the hallways to giving speeches on the House floor with failure to comply resulting in speaker-sponsored censorship.
“To be clear, members will not be recognized unless they are wearing a mask and recognition will be withdrawn if they remove the mask while speaking,” she noted. “The chair appreciates the continued attention of all members and staff to these principles.”
The new mandate is not the first such measure from the Speaker, but marks a dramatic increase in the consequences for members who do not perfectly adhere to her standards. Back in July, failing to wear a mask, which was only required when a representative was in the chamber and not speaking, amounted to a “serious breach of decorum.”
Some representatives have already spoken out against the mandate, including congresswoman elect Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia’s 14th District who took to Twitter Monday to call the move an “oppressive violation” of her rights.
The mandate comes amid reports that Pelosi is demanding all Democrat lawmakers appear in-person in January when the full House will vote to elect the speaker.
Pelosi, who has held the position since the Democrats took the House in 2018, must win a majority of the votes cast in the election in order to maintain her seat. Meanwhile, Republicans have been vying to take it over.
“I think there will be a move on the floor to have her no longer or the question of her being speaker,” stated Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R), House Minority Leader.
The Democrats currently hold a 222-to-210 majority over the Republicans with two races unresolved. However, both the race for New York’s 22nd District and Iowa’s Second District are leaning in favor of the respective Republican candidate. This could lead to a single-digit lead in the House, which could be reduced even further in the event of absences or defections.
Upon her first election to the position, Pelosi promised to only serve two-terms and has dodged questions on why she is now running for a third time. The vote for Speaker is slated for January 3, 2021.