GOP lawmaker challenges McCarthy over ‘bulls—‘ mask mandate enforcement

By | July 29, 2021

Rep. Chip Roy confronted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday about a new Capitol Police bulletin that suggests congressional staffers and visitors could be arrested if they fail to heed the chamber’s new mask mandate.

“This is bulls—. We need to lead,” Roy, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told McCarthy during a brief meeting of GOP lawmakers in a Capitol reception room, according to two sources familiar with the exchange.

McCarthy replied to a frustrated Roy that his plan is to win back the majority in 2022 and become speaker, the sources said. Their back-and-forth illustrates the mounting fury on the right about efforts by Capitol security officials to enforce mask-wearing rules amid the surge of Covid’s Delta variant.

A Capitol Police guidance flier circulated Thursday morning by Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) states: “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 House office buildings or the House side of the Capitol.

“Any person who fails to either comply or leave the premises after being asked to do so would be subject to an arrest for Unlawful Entry,” the flier continues.

The guidance made clear that members who fail to comply with the mask mandate won’t be arrested, but would be “reported to the House Sergeant at Arms’ Office.”

Cammack tweeted the guidance and argued that it was an “abuse of power” by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Capitol Police to propose arresting staffers, even those who are vaccinated.

“The Speaker of the House does not control the U.S. Capitol Police,” Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said. “We were unaware of the [mask-related] memo until it was reported in the press.”

The bulletin comes as Republicans are already hitting the Capitol physician for reimposing a mask mandate in the House when face coverings are not required across the building in the Senate. The mask requirement was put back in place as Covid cases rise in the Capitol, particularly in the House.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.