In the wake of new guidelines from Congressional physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan demanding mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has authorized the House’s Sergeant at Arms to block members of the House from participating in House hearings if they refuse to wear a mask. The Washington Post reports that Pelosi has “asked committee chairs to require masks at all hearings — and authorized the sergeant at arms to bar anyone who refuses to cover their face, according to a senior aide familiar with the request.” Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, some right-wingers have insisted that masks are some kind of affront against their American greatness — or something.
Now, a senior Democratic aide explained to the Post that members will have to wear masks if they want to participate in House hearings. The aide explained:
‘This requirement will be enforced by the Sergeant at Arms and non-compliant Members will be denied entry. Ultimately, Chairs will have the option of not recognizing Members in committee proceedings that fail to comply with the mask requirement… Members always have the option to participate in committee proceedings virtually, including from their Washington, D.C. offices or their districts.’
At a Wednesday House Judiciary Committee hearing, Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) pointed out the new requirement, which was instituted as of the previous day. The committee’s top Republican — Jim Jordan of Ohio — who’d previously resisted mask-wearing, was wearing a mask. Nadler said:
‘After this mark-up is over, we will go home to our loved ones. Wearing a mask helps protect them from serious illness as well. As chairman, I have a duty and responsibility to maintain order and decorum in our proceedings, which includes making sure that we conduct our business in a safe manner in light of the attending physician’s new guidance. I therefore fully expect all members on both sides of the aisle to wear a mask at all times that you are not speaking.’
President Donald Trump has been a leader in the fight against masks. He’s extremely rarely worn one, and he’s mocked his presumptive general election opponent Joe Biden for wearing one.
Biden responded to Trump’s mockery by insisting that the president was an “absolute fool,” telling CNN:
‘This macho stuff, for a guy — I shouldn’t get going, but it just, it costs people’s lives. It’s costing people’s lives… Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine.’
Meanwhile, at least one Republican in the House cast their opposition to masks not just in terms of masculinity or some kind of culture war but in terms of some kind of melodramatic, metaphysical struggle. Last month, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) commented:
‘Can you smell through that mask? Then you’re not stopping any sort of a virus. It’s part of the dehumanization of the children of God. You’re participating in it by wearing a mask.’
Scent particles do not transmit the Coronavirus. In short, Higgins’s comments appear to be yet another part of the GOP’s ongoing war against basic science, which has included grim highlights like their refusal to acknowledge the facts of climate change.