Some House Democrats say Capitol Hill should ditch its mask mandate by March, as a number of blue state governors relent on COVID-19 rules because the omicron surge is easing and Americas want to get on with their lives.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York kicked things off for House Democrats by characterizing New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision Wednesday to roll back a state mask mandate this week as a win for President Biden.
“Thank you to President Biden and Governor Hochul for getting us to this point. We are making tremendous progress thanks to their strong, science-based leadership. I fully support the decision to roll back mask mandates,” tweeted Mr. Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Republicans say Democrats are changing their tune because they know COVID-19 rules are a political liability in a midterm election year.
But whether that shift applies to Capitol Hill remains to be seen. The mask mandate on the House floor has led to spats in hallways and $100,000 in combined fines against Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, as of late December.
A decision to ease off masking would largely depend on the U.S. Capitol physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, who promoted mask-wearing during the surge of the omicron variant and has guided Democratic leaders’ thinking on the virus.
Some Democrats have signaled they’d like to ditch the mask rule by spring.
Rep. Susan Wild, Pennsylvania Democrat, told Politico that too much of the House Ethics Committee’s work has been wrapped up in enforcing mask rules on the House floor and fines for violations.
“The Ethics Committee has sadly been turned into the mask police, and we’re spending way too much time on mask violation issues,” Ms. Wild told the outlet. “When we come back [from recess] … in early March, unless there’s been some new strain or variant, I think it’s time to get rid of the masked mandate.”
Rep. Dan Kildee, Michigan Democrat, told Politico he wished more lawmakers were vaccinated, but said Congress needs to move with the pandemic and the “time will come sooner rather than later” to lift the mandate, likely by spring.
Their comments follow decisions by Democratic governors in California and the Northeast to lift some or all of their mask requirements by early March.
The Biden administration is lagging behind governors in terms of guidance, however.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is too early to move off guidance that recommends universal masking in K-12 schools and face coverings in public indoor spaces in geographic areas with high or substantial transmission — basically the whole country.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said local governments will make their own decisions on requirements based on the pandemic situation in their borders.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.