Senate Discards Masks, House Mandate Remains

Senate Discards Masks, House Mandate Remains john thune speaks in hearing Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. (Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)

By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 18 May 2021 06:08 AM

The United States Senate on Monday joined a large swath of the nation in taking off their masks inside the senate chamber thanks to last week's announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks.

"I think it's just kind of the CDC guidance," said Sen. John Thune , R-S.D., told The Hill Monday.

According to the report, most members in the upper chamber, including leadership on both sides of the aisle, shed their masks as they returned for a procedural vote.

The CDC announced last week that anyone who has been "completely" vaccinated from COVID-19 can now stop wearing masks and socially distancing from other fully vaccinated people indoors.

The report said that most Republicans did not wear masks in the senate, but Democrats were "more evenly split" in donning the protective face coverings.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., quipped that he was "free at last" while leaving the chamber mask less.

Meanwhile in the lower chamber, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seems in no rush to end that body's mask mandate.

Last Thursday, Pelosi said her chamber would keep its mandate despite the new CDC guidelines, Business Insider reported.

When a reporter asked the speaker about the new guidance and ending the mandate, Pelosi said definitively "no."

A speaker for Pelosi's office later confirmed to Bloomberg that the mandate would remain because it is not known how many representatives in the house are fully vaccinated.

The closest estimate Pelosi has is from April 29 when she told ABC News that 75% of the membership were vaccinated and that 100 members were not as of that date.

"We can't require vaccinations for the members of Congress, much less the American people," Pelosi told ABC News in April. "The (House) physician cannot tell us Democrats, Republicans or who — and that's right, we should be respecting people's privacy."

In a letter last Thursday to Pelosi, Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, urged the speaker "to immediately return to normal voting procedures and end mandatory mask requirements in the House of Representatives."

"CDC guidance states fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting except where required by governmental or workplace mandate. It is time to update our own workplace regulations. Every member of Congress has had the opportunity to be vaccinated, and you have indicated about 75 percent have taken advantage of this opportunity," Gibbs's letter said. "The United States Congress must serve as a model to show the country we can resume normal life through vaccination. Let us follow the science and get back to work."

Shortly after Biden's Rose Garden announcement about the new CDC guidelines last week, the White House lifted its mask mandate with an announcement over a loudspeaker.

Original Article