Jun 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Congressional Republicans push to wear masks amid coronavirus cases spike

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) puts on his face mask after speaking to members of the media following the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

More congressional Republicans are advocating for face coverings and rigorous testing for the novel coronavirus, per the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: Cases are surging in several Republican-led states — notably in Florida, Arizona and Texas, and scientific evidence shows face coverings can help control the spread of COVID-19.

Driving the news: As several GOP lawmakers called on people to wear masks, Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz wrote to the Trump administration Thursday asking for extensions to federal funding for testing sites in the state. Cruz said Friday he was grateful their request was granted.

"Our fight against the coronavirus isn't over, and it is important to provide state and local officials every tool available to protect public health. We must remain vigilant as we work to defeat this virus and get our economy get back on its feet. Testing is crucial to those endeavors."
Cruz

What else they're saying: Urging people to use face coverings, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, on Friday tweeted the above photo of her father, Dick Cheney, who was vice president in the administration of former President George W. Bush, wearing a mask.

  • The WSJ notes some Republicans hope wearing face coverings will "enable states to avoid business closures," with Rep. Chris Stewart (R.-Utah) telling the outlet Saturday: "We’ve seen a spike now and we need to be more disciplined than that, maybe we’re not being as careful as we should be."
  • Per the Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Friday, "[Masks] are really important. ... We all need during this period, until we find a vaccine, to think of us as protecting not only ourselves but others."
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) told the Journalhe doesn't think the case for wearing masks is "settled science." "But I am willing to say if that’s a condition of getting our economy back on track, I’m willing to follow the rules," he added.
  • Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) told the WSJ she wore an N95 mask when she attended Trump's Tulsa rally "because many of the attendees had no face coverings."
  • CNN notes Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last Wednesday, "Everyone should wear a damn mask," amid spiking cases across Florida.

Yes, but: Some congressional Republicans have continued to push back on face coverings, with lawmakers including Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Green (R-Tenn.) seen without masks in recent weeks.

  • Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), a physician, said Friday he could "cite many other professionals" who do not recommend masks, per Yahoo News.
  • The Hill reports that House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), chair of the select committee overseeing the federal response to the pandemic, said Friday to Scalise, the panel's ranking Republican: "If you wish to continue having these meetings in person, you're going to have to adhere to the attending physician [guidance to wear masks] or I will not have the meetings in person."

Go deeper: The U.S. divide on coronavirus masks

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