House Democrats on Wednesday defeated a Republican-led attempt to abolish the chamber’s mask requirements for vaccinated members — the latest salvo in the ongoing war between the two parties over pandemic-era protocols.
In a 218-210 party-line vote, the House voted to table the resolution, which would have prodded the chamber to relax its mask rules on the floor and in committee meeting spaces. The effort — which was spearheaded by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the GOP Doctors Caucus — came one day after a group of House Republicans staged a rebellion on the floor over the rules, refusing to wear face coverings and causing some of them to incur hefty fines.
The Office of the Attending Physician has said its current mask guidance for the Capitol is consistent with the latest CDC guidelines for vaccinated individuals, and Democrats argue more Republicans need to be vaccinated before the mask requirement can be discontinued. Speaker Nancy Pelosi also recently extended the House’s proxy voting system until July 3 as members’ concerns about travel amid the coronavirus pandemic persist.
“If Minority Leader McCarthy wants to be maskless on the Floor of the House of Representatives, he should get to work vaccinating his Members,” Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammilll said in a statement.
A recent CNN analysis found that all House Democrats were vaccinated against the coronavirus, but fewer than half of House Republicans had reported getting the vaccine.
While Democrats remained united in their opposition to the resolution, a handful of them had considered crossing party lines and backing the GOP’s efforts to ditch the masks, according to multiple sources. Signaling the expected closeness of the vote, Pelosi had to come to the floor to cast her own vote, and Democratic leaders worked members hard to toe the party line ahead of time.
Frustrations over the mask rules have bubbled up in other places. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas and top House Republicans — including McCarthy and committee ranking members — pressed Pelosi in a new letter on Tuesday to ease proxy voting measures and to lift mask mandates in light of the CDC guidelines released last week, which loosened rules for vaccinated individuals.
“It is time we follow the science, lead by example, and fully return to work to serve the American people,” the GOP letter stated.
Sarah Ferris contributed.