Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) claimed last week that members of Congress who do not wear face masks are subverting democracy and compared such actions to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
What is the background?
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chairwoman of the congressional black caucus, accused Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) of telling her to "kiss my ass" after she requested he wear a face mask while riding the underground subway that transports members of Congress from their offices to the Capitol.
"This is the kind of disrespect we have been fighting for years, and indicative of the larger issue we have with GOP Members flaunting health and safety mandates designed to keep us and our staff safe," Beatty said on Twitter.
Rogers later said he met with Beatty and apologized for his behavior.
What did Jayapal say?
The Washington Democrat claimed on CNN last Wednesday that Rogers committed what she believes is "absolutely assault" and said that it underscores a lack of civility in Congress.
“This is where the lack of civility has come to in the United States Congress," Jayapal said on CNN. "And I think it is a massive problem. It undermines our ability to get work done, and it is intolerable in a workplace where we are going to work to do the work of the American people."
But Jayapal did not stop there. She went on to claim that not wearing a face mask where they are mandated is behavior that subverts democracy — and yes, she invoked Jan. 6.
"Let me just remind your viewers that this was about wearing a mask, which is mandated in the Capitol. It is mandated in the Capitol, and it is to protect our safety — our collective safety, the safety of our staffers," Jayapal said. "And so the idea that — and this has happened to me — where you get on an elevator and people refuse to wear a mask, and your choices are to either get off the elevator or to get on the elevator and to tell them to wear a mask.”
“That should not be a problem in the United States Congress," she continued. "I really believe that our colleagues who refuse to even adhere to the basic norms of civility are undermining our democracy, and of course we’re seeing it in all kinds of even more serious ways like the Jan. 6 insurrection is just part of that and part of the attempt to take down a legitimate democracy from functioning in the way it should."
Jayapal's comments came as Democratic authorities have begun loosening COVID restrictions, including in Washington, D.C. As Democratic leaders increasingly roll back restrictions and face mask mandates, one wonders if Jayapal will retract her harsh and dramatic rhetoric once masks are no longer required anywhere in the Capitol.
After all, masks are currently only required in the House chamber; in the Senate chamber, masks are optional.