By Andy Roesgen
CHICAGO, United States (AA) - Anger and bitterness exploded among members of Congress on Thursday regarding new rules designed to keep the coronavirus at bay in the halls of Capitol Hill.
Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger announced this week that a new mask mandate would be enforced on the House of Representatives side of Capitol Hill, which could include expulsions or arrests of staff members or visitors if they refuse to comply.
Members of Congress do not face arrest but they could be fined hundreds of dollars if they do not mask up.
Capitol Physician Brian Monahan called for the mandate, which Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she "honored," but Republicans are directing their ire at Pelosi.
"Madam Speaker," congresswoman Nancy Mace from the state of South Carolina tweeted, "your insane power grab is showing."
"[I'm] socially distant from anybody else," she added in a video as she walked maskless through the halls of Congress, "I've had COVID, I've had two vaccinations, I'm washing my hands. I'm even wearing my mask inside the [House] chamber. But I'm not going to wear it anywhere else. So Madam Speaker, come and get me," she said.
Other Republicans were refusing to wear masks even in the House Chamber. Lauren Boebert from the state of Colorado reportedly threw a mask to the floor after being offered one by a staff member.
Pelosi ratcheted up the rhetoric on Wednesday, calling House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a "moron" for criticizing the mandate.
Republicans have characterized the mandate as an infringement on their liberties, which is exactly how many Republicans have characterized the renewed mask mandates around the country.
And Republicans in Congress are questioning why there is no mask mandate on the other side of Capitol Hill where the Senate resides.
The new mask mandates around the country are a response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which this week recommended indoor mask-wearing even for those who are fully vaccinated in some parts of the country where the virus, particularly the Delta variant, is spreading quickly.
The vast majority of deaths are now happening among the unvaccinated but the CDC is concerned that some vaccinated people can still transmit the Delta variant.
Health scientists say the virus is changing in ways that demand a change in recommendations.
Republicans say Democrats are changing the rules to maintain control.
Republican congressman Kat Cammack of Florida warned Thursday of arrest from the Capitol Police Chief was "today's edition of Pelosi's power grab."