Reps. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington, Brad Schneider, of Illinois, and Bonnie Watson Coleman, of New Jersey, recently announced that they had tested positive for coronavirus

By Gabrielle Chung
January 12, 2021 10:19 PM
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

House Democrats are proposing to implement fines to members of Congress who refuse to wear a mask after several lawmakers tested positive for the novel coronavirus following Wednesday's riots at the U.S. Capitol.

On Tuesday, Rep. Debbie Dingell, of Michigan, and Rep. Anthony Brown, of Maryland, introduced legislation to amend House rules about masks previously set by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, proposing that Congress members who do not wear a protective face covering on Capitol grounds during the ongoing pandemic be fined $1,000 a day.

"It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask, it is selfish, stupid, and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk," Dingell, 67, said in a statement. "We're done playing games. Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It's not that complicated."

The proposed rule change would be in effect until the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention deems it is safe not to wear a mask, according to Dingell.

Members of Congress Evacuated
| Credit: Rod Lamkey/POOL/CNP/StarTraks

"Members refusing to mask and distance in the Capitol put other Members, aides, support staff and their families at risk," Brown, 59, said in a statement of his own. "There must be consequences for selfish and reckless actions that endanger the lives of others. No Member of Congress should be able to ignore the rules or put others at risk without penalty. As the people's representatives, it is critical that we set an example for the rest of the country. If Members jeopardize the safety of others they should face fines."

According to multiple media outlets, including USA Today and Politico, House Democrats are also looking to fine lawmakers $500 for the first time they do not wear a face mask on the floor and $2,500 for the second time they commit the offense.

The proposal to implements fines to legislators who do not wear a mask comes after Reps. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington, Brad Schneider, of Illinois, and Bonnie Watson Coleman, of New Jersey, announced they had tested positive for COVID-19.

Both of Jayapal and Schneider have blamed their Republican colleagues for not wearing masks while under lockdown in the U.S. Capitol building last week during the riots.

Speaking with PEOPLE on Monday afternoon, Jayapal, 55, said she had "a little fever" while waiting for her test results to come back. "We all got stuck in that room with Republicans who refuse to wear masks," the Congresswoman said.

In a press release confirming her positive result later Monday night, Jayapal said some GOP lawmakers had "cruelly" and "recklessly" refused to wear masks when offered to them during the lockdown.

"Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them," Jayapal said. "Only hours after President [Donald] Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a d--- mask in a crowded room during a pandemic."

RELATED VIDEO: Pro-Trump Rioters Storm U.S. Capitol, Forcing Evacuation of Lawmakers

Schneider, 59, announced his positive result on Twitter and shared a video of some GOP lawmakers refusing masks offered by their colleagues. The Illinois representative wrote that "several Republican lawmakers in the room adamantly refused to wear a mask, as demonstrated in video from Punchbowl News, even when politely asked by their colleagues."

More than 100 of the nation's lawmakers have had to quarantine due to testing positive or coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to GovTrack.

Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, of Louisiana, became the first elected federal official to die from COVID-19 complications last month.

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