$1,000 a Day Fine for Maskless Lawmakers Proposed by House Dems After 3 Reps Get Coronavirus

A group of Democratic lawmakers put forward legislation on Tuesday to fine members of Congress $1,000 if they refuse to wear masks on U.S. Capitol grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic. At least three Democratic House members tested positive after sheltering in place with Republican colleagues who declined to wear masks amid the assault on the Capitol last week.

Democratic Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brad Schneider of Illinois announced this week that they tested positive for the virus. Watson Coleman revealed she was positive and was receiving treatment on Monday. Schneider and Jayapal announced they had tested positive on Tuesday.

The proposed measure would amend House rules so that lawmakers would be required to wear a face mask on Capitol grounds or be subject to a $1,000 fine per day until the pandemic ends.

"It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask, it is selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk," Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement announcing the legislation. Dingell put forward the measure with Representative Anthony Brown, a Maryland Democrat. The legislation was co-sponsored by 15 other House members.

Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wears a protective mask during a joint session of Congress on January 6. On Tuesday, Democrats put forward legislation that would require members of Congress to wear masks on Capitol grounds or face a $1,000 daily fine. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/POOL/AFP/Getty

"Days ago, a colleague of ours died from this virus and left behind a beautiful, young family to mourn his loss. Yet still, in the midst of a deadly assault on our United States Capitol, a number of our Republican colleagues laughed off rules designed to keep not just their colleagues safe, but to protect the lives of the teams of workers keeping things going, law enforcement, and staff throughout the Capitol," Dingell added. "Now, three of our colleagues are suffering from the virus."

Newsweek reached out for comment to a press representative for GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California but did not hear back before publication

"Following the events of Wednesday, including sheltering with several colleagues who refused to wear masks, I decided to take a Covid test," Watson Coleman tweeted on Monday. "I have tested positive."

She provided an update later in the day, writing on Twitter: "While I feel ok, on my doctor's advice I'm on my way to a local hospital for monoclonal antibody treatment. I thank you for the outpouring of supportive messages."

In an early Tuesday morning Twitter post, Jayapal said, "I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one."

Later Tuesday morning, Schneider tweeted, "Unfortunately, I received a positive COVID-19 test this morning following being tested yesterday on the advice of the House Attending Physician."

The congressman pointed out that he had been "forced to spend several hours in a secure but confined location with dozens of other Members of Congress" during the pro-Trump insurrection at the Capitol on Wednesday.

After the riot carried out by President Donald Trump's supporters in the nation's Capitol last Wednesday, video circulated of Republican lawmakers declining masks when they were offered. Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, told San Francisco TV station KGO that "dozens" of his GOP colleagues were not wearing masks during the lockdown.

"Many people were laughing at our efforts to have them masked," Swalwell said. "One of my colleagues, Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, she went and grabbed a stack of masks and asked them if they would put the masks on, and they just smirked and shook their head and essentially told her to buzz off.... It was disgusting."