US Capitol Police officers will arrest visitors and staff members who refuse to comply with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s renewed COVID-19 mask mandate — heightening tensions with Republicans who call the mandate an unscientific power trip.
In a policy that further enraged critics, cops won’t arrest people on the Senate side of the Capitol, where masks remain voluntary. Local DC officials also have not reimposed a citywide mask mandate.
A bulletin for police says, “If a visitor or staff member fails to wear a mask after a request is made to do so, the visitor or staff shall be denied entry to the House Office Buildings or House-side of the U.S. Capitol. Any person who fails to either comply or leave the premises after being asked to do so would be subject to an arrest for Unlawful Entry.”
Members of Congress and aides accompanying them who break the new rule won’t be arrested, but will be reported to House leaders, who will dock their pay with $500 fines. The Constitution says members of Congress are “privileged from Arrest” in most cases at the Capitol.
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) tweeted a copy of the instructions for police. The document was dated Wednesday and is scheduled to remain in effect for the rest of the year.
“In today’s edition of Pelosi’s abuse of power, Capitol Police have been directed to arrest staff and visitors to comply with her mask mandate for vaccinated individuals,” Cammack tweeted.
The fresh fight over masks erupted this week after Pelosi (D-Calif.) readopted mask rules for DC offices, despite local city officials not doing so pursuant to the CDC guidance. The White House also re-adopted an indoor mask rule.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tore into Pelosi on Wednesday for her “hypocrisy” after she called him a “moron” for resisting her new mask mandate.
“Twice today I saw the speaker in a crowded room without a mask, less than 24 hours after imposing the mask mandate,” McCarthy said in a House floor speech.
McCarthy said that “what frustrates Americans the most is the hypocrisy” and he took a swipe at Pelosi’s infamous mid-pandemic haircut without wearing a mask.
“It’s kind of like telling America you can’t go get your hair cut, but you get caught on camera because you do it,” McCarthy said.
The CDC announced the new guidelines on indoor mask wearing as COVID-19 cases rise due to the more contagious Delta variant, particularly in areas with lower rates of vaccination.
Fresh data on Tuesday afternoon showed DC crossing into the CDC’s “substantial” transmission bracket — meaning local officials should consider indoor mask rules under the new CDC guidelines — with a seven-day average of slightly more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents.