U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks is among three Republicans who will be fined $500 for violating the mask mandate on the House floor, Congressional correspondents reported on May 18. Seven more House Republicans received warnings for breaking the same rule. The mask refusers include some on the far-right wing of the GOP caucus: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Thomas Massie, Chip Roy, and Louie Gohmert.
Under House rules, $500 will be deducted from members’ salaries for a first violation of the mask requirement. A second offense will bring a $2,500 fine.
Miller-Meeks declared on May 14 that the House should set “an example for the rest of the country,” following updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control saying fully vaccinated people could safely forgo face coverings in most situations.
My partial transcript:
I am pleased to see the CDC following the science and recommending that fully vaccinated individuals can go without masks indoors.
As members of Congress, we should not only encourage constituents to get vaccinated, we should be showing them what a return to normal looks like, and follow the science.
According to the speaker, roughly 75 percent of our members have received COVID-19 vaccination, and therefore should have the choice to go without masks.
Americans are looking for hope, and we are not showing it. Just as I implored on April 22, I am again calling on the speaker and attending physician to lift the rules and fines that require fully vaccinated members of Congress to wear masks in the House chamber. […]
We must be the leaders we were elected to be, follow the science, and have the choice to go without a mask. I am going to be that leader, and I choose no mask.
The Office of Attending Physician informed House members on May 17 that the mask mandate would remain in place: “Extra precautions are necessary given the substantial number of partially vaccinated, unvaccinated, and vaccine-indeterminate individuals.”
CNN reporters sought comment from the offices of all House members and confirmed that all 219 House Democrats have been vaccinated for COVID-19. However, just “95 of the 211 Republicans say they are vaccinated.”
Miller-Meeks demanded that House rules give vaccinated members “the choice to go without a mask.” To her credit, she has tried to persuade Iowans to get vaccinated. The trouble is that many of her House colleagues who are eager to drop their masks also don’t believe in COVID-19 vaccines.
Of the ten House Republicans warned or fined on May 18 for having faces uncovered on the House floor, only Miller-Meeks was confirmed to be vaccinated, according to CNN’s survey of Congressional offices. Politico reported that a second of the demonstrative mask refusers, Representative Brian Mast, is fully vaccinated as well.
While Miller-Meeks often uses the phrase “follow the science,” she did not comment publicly after the Iowa Department of Public Health (an agency she directed from 2011 to 2014) encouraged school districts and child cares to make masks optional last week. That advice contradicts CDC guidance on COVID-19 prevention strategies for schools.
Flouting the House rules on face coverings will presumably help Miller-Meeks protect her right flank. Many Republicans have turned masks into a symbol of political oppression rather than a common-sense precaution against a respiratory virus.
UPDATE: Miller-Meeks is now raising money off being fined. No word on whether her unvaccinated colleagues should “follow the science” by keeping their masks on in public.
I forgot to mention that earlier this month, Miller-Meeks told a reporter she would agree to an interview only if he removed his mask. The two were indoors in Johnson County, where a local mask mandate remains in effect.
Top image: Screenshot from Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ May 14 speech on the House floor.