Nancy Pelosi mask mandate on the House floor after Gohmert case.

Congressional leaders are moving rapidly to change some of their coronavirus protocols — including requiring members to wear masks on the House floor — after Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive Wednesday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she would now require all members to wear masks on the floor. Lawmakers are currently encouraged to wear masks in the chamber and required to wear them in committee rooms — although some Republicans openly defy that rule and have yet to be punished.

“Members and staff will be required to wear masks at all times in the hall of the House. Except that members may remove their masks, temporarily, when recognized,” she said.

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“The speaker has the authority to direct the sergeant at arms to remove a member from the floor as a matter of decorum,” Pelosi said, adding that not wearing a mask would be considered a “serious breach of decorum.”
Gohmert (R-Texas), who frequently refuses to wear a mask around the Capitol, tested positive during a pre-screening by the White House before a scheduled flight with President Donald Trump to Texas — news that quickly reverberated across the Hill.

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But it’s unclear if congressional leaders will stop with the mask mandate. Some other senior lawmakers and even White House chief of staff Mark Meadows suggested that Congress should require members to be tested, especially when flying in after a recess where many lawmakers come from coronavirus hotspots.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday that a more robust testing regimen for members was under discussion.

“We’re not mandating testing at this point … but we’re discussing that,” Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters. “We have discussed it in the past. This is a moment, I think, where we ought to be discussing it again.”

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The questions about safety protocols in the Capitol come after Gohmert — who typically flouted masks and social distancing around the House chamber — tested positive, prompting a wave of other lawmakers to self-isolate after potential exposure.

Pelosi already instituted a series of additional safety measures last month for when lawmakers are inside the Capitol, including a mandate to wear masks during committee hearings and encouraging masks anytime they are in the House chamber, though not all Republicans abide by those rules. But Democrats are now looking at whether to go further.


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