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Dingell bill would impose $1,000 fine for lawmakers who won't mask up

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michigan U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell introduced legislation Tuesday to levy a $1,000-a-day fine for members of Congress if they don't wear a mask on the Capitol grounds during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bill, co-sponsored by Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown, comes after at least three Democratic lawmakers revealed they have tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering for hours in a secure room during the attack on the Capitol last week alongside Republican members who refused to put on masks.

Debbie Dingell, U. S Representative for Michigan's 12th District, with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in background, during a press conference in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan on Oct. 18, 2020.

“We’re done playing games. Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It’s not that complicated,” said Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat.

Democratic Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brad Schneider of Illinois said they had tested positive after being in the secure room Wednesday.

Watson Coleman, who previously had cancer, said Monday she was going into the hospital for monoclonal antibody treatment.

Dingell was among the lawmakers sheltering in the secure room, but she wore a mask and has twice tested negative in the days since, according to her office. 

“It is not brave to refuse to wear a mask; it is selfish, stupid and shameful behavior that puts lives at risk. Days ago, a colleague of ours died from this virus and left behind a beautiful, young family to mourn his loss," Dingell said,referring to Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana who died from complications of the virus last month. 

"Yet still, in the midst of a deadly assault on our United States Capitol, a number of our Republican colleagues laughed off rules designed to keep not just their colleagues safe, but to protect the lives of the teams of workers keeping things going, law enforcement, and staff throughout the Capitol."

Dingell's bill would amend House rules and impose a $1,000 fine per day for any member who refuses to wear a mask on Capitol grounds. The rule would stay in effect until the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention deems it is safe not to wear a mask.

Video posted Friday by Punchbowl News recorded maskless Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia declining masks offered by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Delaware Democrat, in the secure room.

Jayapal said the GOP lawmakers in the secure room who refused masks also "recklessly mocked" the colleagues and staff who offered them one.

Jayapal in a statement called for "serious" fines to be levied on members who refuse to wear a mask in the Capitol. She also said that members who refuse to wear a mask should be "immediately" removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.

"This is not a joke. Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy," Jayapal said. 

Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician for Congress, over the weekend advised members and staff that those in the secured room could have been exposed to an occupant in the room who had contracted the virus. 

mburke@detroitnews.com