McCarthy Will Require GOP Lawmakers to Wear Masks for Conference

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in an about-face, will require his GOP colleagues to wear masks when they gather Tuesday for a conference, according to a summary of his directive obtained Friday.

McCarthy has previously said lawmakers should wear masks at the Capitol, but he hadn’t been insisting on it. Democrats have complained that some Republicans have been appearing without masks at in-person hearings or on the House floor.

The guidelines for those attending Tuesday’s in-person Republican-only conference are explicit: Masks are required, temperature checks will be taken at the door and social distancing measures will be strictly enforced.

McCarthy’s directive, according to the copy obtained by Bloomberg News, also indicates that spacing requirements mean that not all 197 House Republicans will be able to attend the meeting.

“We only have enough seats for 131 Members, so RSVPs are required,” it says. The guidelines were also spelled out to members during a GOP conference call on Wednesday.

A few House Republicans have complained in recent weeks about such requirements. The issue of government leaders mandating masks have touched off disputes across the country, with some Americans defying requirements in stores and other businesses.

Arizona Representative Andy Biggs, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus wrote an op-ed column last month declaring broad government mask mandates “tyrannical.”

But even Biggs was prompted to reach out earlier this week to other House Republicans who had attended a news conference last week with himself and Representative Morgan Griffith of Virginia last week to tell them that Griffith had since tested positive for Covid-19.

Griffith had taken off his mask during that news conference.

“We have been contacting everybody who was at the presser to advise them of the member who tested positive for Covid-19,” Biggs’ office said in a statement, adding that “Biggs has been advising everyone there to contact the House physician or their own physicians to understand how they should proceed.”

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