Lawmakers react to new U.S. House mask mandate
WASHINGTON, D.C. - There is mixed reaction on Capitol Hill about President Biden considering new vaccine requirements for federal employees, and about a new mask mandate in the U.S. House chambers.
For some lawmakers, a COVID vaccine mandate for the nearly 2.2 million federal employees appeared inevitable.
“I think that it’s appropriate that the President is moving to that point,” said Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii).
But others are saying it’s government overreach.
“We need to make sure that we trust the American people to make decisions regarding vaccines and so forth on their own,” said Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.).
This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Attending Physician announced members must once again wear masks on the house floor.
The debate on Capitol Hill follows guidance from the C.D.C. issued this week recommending Americans in COVID hot spots mask up indoors even if you’re vaccinated.
“If (the vaccine) works, why are they making us wear a mask,” Keller said. “It either works or it doesn’t. Let’s follow the science.”
To add to the confusion and tension, the mask mandate is not in effect in the U.S. Senate, despite all members of Congress receiving the Attending Physician’s letter.
“The way that read to me was that we should be wearing masks and our staff should as well,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chair of the Senate Aging Committee.
Casey, a close Biden ally, supports the President’s new vaccine mandate. He says individuals and other employers should take steps to prevent the spread.
“If you’re an employer, part of your personal responsibility is to try and do everything you can to beat this pandemic,” said Casey. “So, I think that’s what the President is trying to do.”