U.S. Capitol Police backed down on Thursday and said they would ask people in the House of Representatives not wearing a face mask to leave after Republican lawmakers blasted a memo that stated such individuals would be arrested.
The agency did not specifically rule out arrests, but did say it should never come to that.
‘Regarding the House mask rule, there is no reason it should ever come to someone being arrested. Anyone who does not follow the rule will be asked to wear a mask or leave the premises. The Department’s requirement for officers to wear masks is for their health and safety,’ US Capitol Police tweeted in a statement.
The statement came after it was revealed officers been ordered to arrest visitors and staff who refuse to wear a mask on the House side of the Capitol complex. The policy did not apply to lawmakers who refuse to wear masks.
Many Republicans have refused to wear masks, citing it as an issue of personal freedom, criticizing the Capitol physician over implementing a mask policy for the House and not the Senate, and arguing the science means vaccinated individuals shouldn’t have to mask up.
Several staffers and visitors were seen walking around the House side of the Capitol without masks on Thursday but were not arrested.
Additionally, several conservative Republicans gathered in the Capitol Rotunda without wearing face masks to protest the policy. ‘Arrest us,’ one shouted as their maskless staff recorded them to post the event to social media.
No one was arrested.
The GOP lawmakers marched to the Senate side of the Capitol, which does not have a face mask requirement. Nearly 100 per cent of the Senate is vaccinated.
Republican Rep. Thomas Massie told reporters they walked across the Capitol building ‘for a taste of freedom.’
‘You don’t have to wear a mask on the Senate side,’ he pointed out.
Many House Republicans blasted Pelosi for the ‘tyrannical’ directive, but the Democrat’s office responded that she ‘does not control the US Capitol Police.’
The chief of the Capitol Police reports to the three-member Capitol Police board, which is made up of the House sergeant at arms, the Senate sergeant at arms and the architect of the Capitol.
The chief does not answer to the speaker. The mask mandate in the House – which requires everyone, including those fully vaccinated, to wear one – was ordered by the Office of the Attending Physician but Pelosi said she would enforce it, which falls under her purview as speaker.
The controversy on Capitol Hill came the same day that Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced masks will be required indoors throughout the District, including for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Conservative Republican lawmakers gathered in the rotunda to march to the Senate side of Capitol, which does not have a face mask policy
Republicans have protested a new policy to wear face masks in the House, refusing to don them
US Capitol Police backed down on a memo that said staff and visitors not wearing face masks in the House would be arrested
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would enforce the mandate from the Office of the Attending Physician that all people, including those fully-vaccinated, wear face masks in the House; above Pelosi at the Capitol on Thursday
Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday vowed to defy a requirement that visitors and staff wear masks inside the Capitol. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seen above on Wednesday
A Republican lawmaker revealed a memo that said US Capitol Police had been ordered to arrest visitors and staff who refuse to wear a mask on the House side of the Capitol complex. Capitol Police Mountain Bike officers secure the plaza on Thursday (above)
House Rep. Kat Cammack, a Republican from Florida, posted a copy of the memo on her Twitter feed
Cammack tweeted: ‘In today’s edition of Pelosi’s abuse of power, Capitol Police have been directed to arrest staff and visitors to comply with her mask mandate for vaccinated individuals’
Cammack then vowed that she would defy the mask requirement. ‘I will not comply, Nancy,’ the congresswoman tweeted.
At the same time, pressure is growing on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release the data that led it to reverse position on masks and recommend that vaccinated Americans wear face coverings indoors in areas of high COVID-19 transmission.
States and cities have said they are reluctant to update their own advice without seeing the evidence that vaccinated people can transmit the virus.
Multiple Republicans claim the decision was based on a study from India involving vaccines that are not approved in the U.S.
‘Their new guidance for vaccinated individuals to wear a mask is based exclusively on a study FROM INDIA—which has NOT passed peer review—using vaccines that are NOT APPROVED in the US, ‘ tweeted House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.
On Capitol Hill, House Rep. Kat Cammack, a Republican from Florida, posted a copy of the police memo ordering the arrests to her Twitter feed.
Cammack tweeted: ‘In today’s edition of Pelosi’s abuse of power, Capitol Police have been directed to arrest staff and visitors to comply with her mask mandate for vaccinated individuals.
‘For Members, they advise not arresting but ‘reporting Members to SAA for their failure to comply’.’
Cammack then vowed that she would defy the mask requirement.
‘I will not comply, Nancy,’ the congresswoman tweeted.
‘Certainly not with a mandate that is based on an unpublished, failed peer review study conducted in India.
‘This is not your House. This is the People’s House.
‘Get it right.’
Cammack told Fox News that she received a copy of the memo from an unnamed officer.
She said that police officers who she’s spoken to are ‘very uncomfortable’ with the directive, which the lawmaker said was ‘tyrannical.’
House Rep. Nancy Mace, the South Carolina Republican, tweeted: ‘Madam Speaker, your insane power grab is showing.’ In a video, Mace says: ‘I had COVID, I’ve had two vaccinations, I’m washing my hands, I’m even wearing my mask inside the chamber, but I’m not going to wear it anywhere else. So Madam Speaker, come and get me.’
‘This is such an overstep of Speaker Pelosi’s authority to basically make our Capitol Police arrest staff members and report on members [of Congress],’ Cammack told Fox News on Thursday.
‘It’s absolutely unconscionable that this is where we’re at.’
House Rep. Nancy Mace, the South Carolina Republican, tweeted: ‘Madam Speaker, your insane power grab is showing.
‘Today I’m not wearing a mask outside of the chamber b/c I follow science — not Pelosi.
‘Come and get me.’
In a video, Mace says: ‘I had COVID, I’ve had two vaccinations, I’m washing my hands, I’m even wearing my mask inside the chamber, but I’m not going to wear it anywhere else.
‘So Madam Speaker, come and get me.’
Mace then posted another tweet which read: ‘This morning Capitol Hill Police were directed to arrest anyone not wearing a mask.
‘This is nuts.’
Mace’s caucus joined her in condemning Pelosi.
The official Twitter account of the House GOP caucus tweeted: ‘OUTRAGEOUS!’
House Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted: ‘This is INSANE.
‘Might as well come into my office and arrest my entire staff. We are not wearing masks.’
Massie added: ‘I support the Capitol Hill Police, but the Chief of Police made a mistake here.
‘The physician and the chief of police don’t have this authority.’
House Rep. Ralph Norman, a Republican from South Carolina, tweeted: ‘Wow. I’m speechless.’
Brian Mast, a GOP lawmaker from Florida, tweeted: ‘New orders issued to ARREST Americans visiting our nation’s capitol who refuse to bend to Pelosi’s big government mandates.
‘This has always been about power, and I’m afraid this is just the beginning of the lengths she is willing to go to obtain it.’
House Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican from North Carolina, tweeted: ‘*Speechless*.’
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney of New York tweeted: ‘Pelosi’s political theater is only aimed at distracting from her radical agenda.’
Tenney noted that 85 percent of House members are vaccinated, as are 70 percent of the Congressional workforce.
She also noted that transmission rate on Capitol Hill is just .5 percent. The Senate does not have a mask mandate.
House Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York, tweeted: ‘This is so out of control.
‘Pelosi is massively drunk on power, obsessed with control, and hypocritical and partisan beyond belief.’
Pelosi on Wednesday called House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy a ‘moron’ for opposing new face mask guidelines
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on face masks were not ‘based on science’ but from ‘liberal government officials’
A spokesperson for Pelosi told Fox News: ‘The speaker of the House does not control the US Capitol Police.
‘We were unaware of the memo until it was reported in the press.’
Pelosi on Wednesday called House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy a ‘moron’ for opposing new guidelines requiring fully-vaccinated people in certain areas to wear face masks.
Pelosi was defending new face mask requirements in the House – where fully-vaccinated people will be required to wear masks in accordance with new CDC guidance – when she was asked about comments from McCarthy.
Getting into her SUV, Pelosi was heard muttering of him: ‘He’s such a moron.’
McCarthy claimed the new guidelines from the CDC on face masks were not ‘based on science’ but from ‘liberal government officials.’
‘Make no mistake – the threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state,’ McCarthy wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
The speaker was asked about those comments when she fired off her insult, the latest strike between the two leaders, who have seen new levels of bipartisan bickering.
Asked later to clarify her remark, Pelosi didn’t deny it but said: ‘To say that wearing a mask is not based on science, I think it’s not wise, and that was my comment and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.’
Leader Kevin McCarthy (left) and Speaker Pelosi (far right in yellow) were both at an event at the White House on Monday but did not interact
McCarthy snapped back, sarcastically calling Pelosi ‘brilliant.’
‘Well, if she’s so brilliant, can she tell me where the science in the building changes between the House and the Senate? Can she explain to me when the CDC says only vaccinated people need to wear a mask in hotspots?,’ he told reporters on Capitol Hill.
The House has reinstituted a mask mandate for everyone – including those fully vaccinated. The Senate has not.
Bowser on Thursday said that all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two will be required to wear masks indoors – a reversal of policy that follows the newly revised CDC guidelines.
Throughout the pandemic, DC had one of the strictest mask requirements in the country. It required residents to wear masks both indoors and outdoors whenever one person came near another for more than a ‘fleeting’ amount of time.
In May, many mask requirements were lifted for those who received the COVID-19 vaccine. All residents were allowed to go without a mask starting in June, though the restriction remained in place on public transit, schools, and government buildings.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is expected to announce on Thursday his administration will require federal workers to be vaccinated or else submit to strict testing measures.
Biden, in a speech at the White House, will announce a directive requiring the federal government’s 2 million work force to show they’ve been vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
It won’t be a mandate, which the White House has said it won’t issue, but it will be a first step in requiring vaccinations at a small level.
Biden has resisted any talk of vaccine requirements for the nation but he does control the federal government, one of the largest employers in the nation.
President Joe Biden will launch a tough new approach on the COVID pandemic in a speech Thursday
The White House is holding the details of Biden’s on Thursday address close to its chest as it finalizes the directive amid rising COVID cases, tied to the highly contagious Indian Delta variant.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would only tell reporters Wednesday that the administration is considering options for federal employees like ‘confirming vaccination status or abiding by stringent COVID-19 protocols, like mandatory mask wearing.’
The directive will be delivered in sterner terms than Biden has used previously, a White House official told CNN of the president’s speech, signaling Biden’s growing impatience with those who refuse to get vaccinated.
The goal is to make being unvaccinated such a burden that those who haven’t received their vaccine will have little choice other than to get one.
Some vaccine requirements have started.
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday ordered the majority of its health-care workers to get vaccinated.
The Defense Department will be exempt from Thursday’s announcement as it cannot legally require troops to receive the vaccine until the Food and Drug Administration issues its final approval for the drugs. The COVID vaccines are now approved under an emergency use authorization.
Additionally, the White House is backing new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on mask requirements. The CDC urged fully vaccinated individuals ‘wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.’
The agency said that 63.4 percent of counties now had levels high enough to warrant indoor masking.
The White House and several other government agencies – including the Pentagon and State Department – have issued notices requiring masks indoors.
Over the past month, the average new daily cases across the country have increased by 376 percent, from 11,887 on June 26 to 56,635 on July 26.
Currently, around 56 percent of Americans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and half of the country is fully vaccinated.
That means that more than 40 percent of Americans, and 30 percent of adults, are not vaccinated at all.
Biden has shown his frustration with people’s refusal to get a COVID vaccine.
‘If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,’ he said on Tuesday.
And the change in the administration’s handling of the pandemic is becoming notable.
Three months ago, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Biden declared: ‘If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. It’s vaxxed or masked.’
On Fourth of July, the president declared the country’s ‘independence’ from the virus as he hosted a massive party on the South Lawn of the White House.
But the rising COVID cases due to the Delta variant and the refusal by a large set of the population to get vaccinated have set back the administration’s strategy.
The CDC urged fully vaccinated individuals ‘wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.’
It said that 63.4 percent of counties now had levels high enough to warrant indoor masking.
Washington D.C. is rated as one of those areas, where the rate is 52 cases per 100,000. The CDC said Americans should resume wearing masks in areas where there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days.
Relations between Pelosi and McCarthy have reached a new level of nastiness after she nixed two of his picks for the House committee investigating the January 6th MAGA riot at the Capitol.
Both leaders were at an event in the White House Rose Garden on Monday to mark the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – they didn’t acknowledge one another during the ceremony, where they sat on opposite sides of the aisle.
After Pelosi vetoed Republican Reps. Jim Banks and Jim Jordan – both staunch Trump allies who voted against certifying the election results for Joe Biden – from participating on the panel, McCarthy pulled his three other picks for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
The speaker said she removed the two Republicans based on the ‘integrity’ of the investigation. As speaker, Pelosi has final say on who sits on the panel.
She also struck back, adding GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger to the committee to join her previous Republican pick, Liz Cheney.