WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives is masking up again, and some people are pointing fingers at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Posts with thousands of likes claim Speaker Pelosi has ordered that all House members and staff must wear masks, and if they refuse, they’ll be arrested.
Meanwhile, several GOP lawmakers are condemning her online and on the floors of Congress.
“I cannot fathom a circumstance in which it's ever appropriate to arrest another human being for not wearing a mask— COVID or no COVID," Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) said during a Senate session on Friday.
He was followed by senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Ted Cruz (R-T); the latter called her "drunk on power."
“If you dare walk in the hallway without a mask, I Speaker Pelosi will arrest you. I will put you in jail, I will fine you," Cruz said, mocking the House Speaker. "That is an absolute and complete abuse of power.”
Let's Verify what's true and what's not.
So let’s Verify, did Nancy Pelosi enact the mask policy? Can Capitol Police arrest people if they refuse to wear a mask?
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi's weekly press conference (June 28, 2021) transcript
- Memo from the Office of the Attending Physician (July 27, 2021)
- Congressional Research Service - "Office of the Attending Physician, U.S. Congress: Background Information and Response to Public Health Emergencies"
- U.S. Capitol Police tweet
The masking policy came from the Attending Physician of the Capitol, not Speaker Pelosi.
U.S. Capitol Police have the ability to arrest visitors and staffers who refuse to comply with the rule, but say "there is no reason it should ever come to someone being arrested. For Members of Congress and staffers who are with them that won't comply, Capitol Police will report the incident to the House Sergeant at Arms."
WHAT WE FOUND:
During her weekly press conference, Speaker Pelosi mentioned the new masking policy.
“There is no discussion about ‘should we do it, should we not’ for one reason or another," she said. "It's the decision of the Capitol physician, who is following the guidance of the CDC about the masks.”
So Pelosi says it wasn’t her, but we didn’t just take her at her word.
The Verify team obtained the July 27th memo sent out by the Attending Physician of the U.S. Congress Dr. Brian P. Monahan. In it he mandates face masks in all public House Office buildings and rooms except when alone.
The memo reads in part:
"For all House Office Buildings, the Hall of the House, and House Committee Meetings, wearing of a well-fitted, medical grade, filtration face mask is required when an individual is in an interior space and other individuals are present. To be clear, for meetings in an enclosed US House of Representatives controlled space, masks are REQUIRED. Masks will be provided by the meeting sponsor to individuals arriving without masks. Members and staff will be required to always wear masks in the Hall of the House except while Members are under recognition. Members and staff will not be permitted to enter the Hall of the House without wearing a mask. Masks will be available at the entry points for any Member who needs one. Failure to wear a mask in the Hall of the House is subject to fines imposed for violation as contained in the previous House rule. Masks are NOT required in indoor spaces when an individual is alone..."
So we can verify, no, Speaker Pelosi didn't create the mask mandate, the attending Physician did.
The Attending Physician is appointed by the Navy, and is responsible for providing emergency medical care to members of Congress, justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, congressional staff, and visitors to the Capitol, according to a Congressional Research Service report. He has held this position since 2009, serving under both Democratic and Republican majorities.
Dr. Monahan was the doctor that administered COVID-19 vaccines for Congress members.
Can people be arrested for refusing to wear a mask?
According to a July 18th Capitol Police memo tweeted out by a few lawmakers, the answer is yes— for visitors and staff members.
"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," the memo reads in part. "Any person who fails to comply or leave the premises after being asked to do so would be subject to an arrest for Unlawful Entry, D.C. Code § 22-3302."
However, it will work differently for Members of Congress and any staffer who is with them. Capitol Police will instead report the violation to the House Sergeant at Arms.
Capitol Police responded to the confusion on Twitter: "Regarding the House mask rule, there is no reason it should ever come to someone being arrested. Anyone who does not follow the rule will be asked to wear a mask or leave the premises. The Department's requirement for officers to wear masks is for their health and safety."
So we can Verify, yes it’s possible to get arrested for refusing to mask up. But you shouldn’t expect widespread arrests.