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'Best $500 I ever spent': GOP lawmakers flout mask rules, risk fine on House floor

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not loosened the pandemic-related rules, despite new CDC guidance.
Image: Rep. Stefanik Chairs First House GOP Conference
A maskless Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference at the U.S Capitol on Tuesday.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Several Republican lawmakers, in an act of apparent protest, flouted mask rules on the House floor Tuesday during a voting session and then took a photo in front of the Capitol steps.

"Best $500 I ever spent," Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., said after he left the chamber, a reference to the fine House members face for breaking mask rules set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The fine is $500 for a first offense and $2,500 for a second offense.

He was joined in protest by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Beth Van Duyne of Texas, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Mary Miller of Illinois.

Later Tuesday, a Capitol official confirmed that first offense warnings for not following the mask rules would be issued to Boebert, Massie, Green, Roy, Good, Gohmert and Mary Miller.

Mast, Van Duyne and Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, will be fined $500 for a second related offense, the official said.

The fine for a third offense, the official added, is $2,500. The fine for each offense after that is $2,500.

In March and again in late April, Pelosi said about 1 in 4 members of the House had not been vaccinated against Covid-19, even though they have had access to the vaccines since December. Many Republican lawmakers have protested since Pelosi put infection-control measures in place in the House, as well as after the Jan. 6 riot.

Massie organized the protest, a source said.

"We've had enough. We are refusing to wear our masks on the floor during this vote in spite of Pelosi's threat to take $500 from each of us. Her rule is not based on science. All you need to know is the mask rule has only ever applied to members when they can be seen on TV !" he tweeted Tuesday.

Greene posted a selfie with other members during the protest on the floor, despite a rarely enforced rule that bans photography on the floor.

There's no official public record of which House members, including those who participated in the mask protest, have been vaccinated.

Some of the representatives' offices have not returned requests for comment. A spokesperson for Greene said the media do not have a right to that information. Another representative replied with the link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

An aide said Norman has been vaccinated. The aide said that Norman believes Pelosi's rules are neither rooted in science nor common sense and that they are setting a bad example for the rest of the nation.

A GOP staffer with knowledge of the protest said: "Democrats have said 'trust the science' for over a year. Now they refuse to recognize new CDC guidance. Why?"

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, on Sunday defended her agency's decision to issue new and loosened guidelines on mask-wearing, changes that have sparked confusion among state and local officials, as well as businesses.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Walensky stressed that "evolving science" drove the decision to update the government's guidance to allow those who have been fully vaccinated to safely shed their masks in most circumstances, and she said the agency wanted to get the information to Americans as quickly as possible.

"This was not permission to shed masks for everybody everywhere. This was really science-driven individual assessment of your risk," she said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., was seen having an animated debate with Greene, Boebert and Massie on the House floor for at least 15 minutes Tuesday afternoon.

"I was just telling my friends that 100 percent of the Democrats had been vaccinated, and if we had 100 percent of the members vaccinated we could all take our masks off — so we should be protesting them," Raskin told reporters.

He said Massie argued that he had already had Covid-19 so he has the same immunity as someone who has been vaccinated. Then, Raskin said, they "got into it."

"I said: 'Hey, you guys are just like 21st century Freedom Riders. John Lewis would be so proud,'" Raskin told reporters. "The irony may have been lost on them. I don't know."