As the coronavirus pandemic continues to recede, numerous states and entities have eased pandemic-related restrictions. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidelines to say that face masks and social distancing are no longer necessary for people who are vaccinated.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), however, has shown no indication that she is ready for things to get back to normal, and has insisted that a mask mandate will remain in place for Congress, as will the allowance for members to vote remotely, Fox News reported.
Both of those decisions have received opposition from a number of House Republicans, who argue that Pelosi’s pandemic rules should immediately be relaxed so that Congress can set an example for the rest of the country in terms of returning to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Pelosi changed the rules
In a party-line vote in May 2020, Pelosi imposed a new rule on the House that allowed members to cast votes while off the House floor, either remotely or through a proxy, the first time in the nation’s history that such means of voting for members had been permitted.
The allowance for remote voting was purported to be a precautionary measure, in that it would aid social distancing by permitting business to be conducted without all of the House’s members in the chamber at the same time.
Yet, as per the new CDC guidelines, such social distancing measures, particularly for those who are vaccinated — and it has been estimated that roughly 75% of Congress has been fully vaccinated — are no longer necessary.
Remote voting will continue until July
In a “Dear Colleague” statement issued Monday, Pelosi announced that she was extending the “covered period” allowing remote voting, reauthorized on Jan. 4, until at least July 3.
That followed an announcement from Pelosi last week that, at the supposed direction of the attending physician, the mask mandate for congressional members and staffers would be extended “until all Members and floor staff are fully vaccinated.”
The decision to extend the mask mandate, and presumably the altered voting arrangements, did not sit well with a number of House Republicans, who urged Pelosi to “follow the science” and “get back to work” in a letter signed by 34 GOP members.
“Return to normal voting procedures”
That letter, led by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), and citing the new CDC guidelines, called on Pelosi to “immediately return to normal voting procedures and end mandatory mask requirements” in Congress.
“The United States Congress must serve as a model to show the country we can resume normal life through vaccination. Let’s follow the science and get back to work,” the members demanded, citing the same 75% vaccination figure for Congress that Pelosi has touted for the opposite reason.
Unfortunately, at least for the next few months, it appears as though Pelosi is unwilling to relent on the restrictions imposed and allowances made with regard to the ever-diminishing pandemic.