House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mandated the wearing of face masks in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, hours after Republican Representative Louie Gohmert announced he tested positive for COVID-19. Gohmert has frequently forgone wearing a mask on Capitol Hill in recent days.
"Members and staff will be required to wear masks in the halls of the House," Pelosi said during remarks she made on the House floor.
She explained that members and staffers will not be allowed in the House Chamber if they refuse to obey the new mandate.
"The chair would also like to remind members that the speaker has the authority to direct the sergeant at arms to remove a member from the floor as a matter of decorum," Pelosi added. "To reiterate, the chair views the failure to wear a mask as a serious breach of decorum."
Gohmert claimed in a video posted on Twitter that he was tested twice at the White House before he was set to travel with President Trump to Texas, and both of those tests came back positive. Gohmert, 66, said he is asymptomatic. Gohmert even suggested he could have contracted COVID-19 from wearing a mask, even though studies show face coverings help slow the spread of droplets containing the virus.
"It is interesting, and I don't know about everybody, but when I have a mask on, I'm moving it to make it comfortable, and I can't help but wonder if that puts some germs in the mask," Gohmert said in the video.
Gohmert's positive test has forced other House members to self-quarantine. Representative Kay Granger, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, is self-quarantining after sitting next to Gohmert on a flight from Texas to Washington.
Gohmert is not the first member of Congress to test positive. Senator Rand Paul was criticized in March when he visited the members' gym while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test, which then came back positive. Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Democratic Representative Ben McAdams of Utah also tested positive this spring.