Updated Jan 24, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House GOP freshmen boycott White House event over COVID protocols

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, wearing a blue dress, black blazer and pearl-shaped necklace, speaks to colleagues on the House floor.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.). Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Several House Republicans are declining invitations to attend a White House reception for freshman House members on Tuesday evening in protest of the event's COVID-19 rules.

Why it matters: It's an example of the broad Republican effort to have the administration's policies reflect President Biden's statement in September that the pandemic is "over."

  • It also denies the White House an opportunity to make potentially crucial inroads with Republican lawmakers, including at least one from a district Biden won in 2020.

Driving the news: Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) said in a statement that he declined the invitation because members are required to produce a negative COVID test 24 hours in advance and present either proof of vaccination or masking up and socially distancing.

  • "I am forgoing a historic trip to the White House to raise awareness of this punitive policy in hopes that President Biden will reverse it and other arbitrary, outdated and unscientific restrictions across the federal system," said LaLota, whose district went for Biden by 4 points.
  • Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) is declining for the same reason. "Rep. Luna will not be attending. Even the CDC has recognized that COVID is no longer a pandemic," her spokesperson Edie Heipel told Axios.
  • Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) "has moved on from the pandemic and doesn’t plan on attending anything that still requires testing," his spokesperson DJ Griffin told Axios.
  • Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) tweeted: "President Biden declared on national television that the pandemic was over. However, the White House is requiring a negative COVID test to attend tonight’s taxpayer funded soirée. I politely decline."

The context: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing on Monday that "everyone is invited who is part of the new Congress," but that she didn't know how many members would be attending.

What we're hearing: Other House Republicans are declining due to scheduling conflicts, their offices told Axios.

  • They include Reps. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) and Max Miller (R-Ohio).
  • Rep. Mike Ezell (R-Miss.) will also skip, said his spokesperson Jonathan Bailey: "While he believes in the value of bipartisan relationships, he doesn’t feel that this reception is the best venue for building serious, policy-focused partnerships."

Yes, but: Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-Texas) plans to go and "share with the President the crime ravaging the border and its effect on the folks of TX-08,” his spokesperson Cally Perkins told Axios.

  • Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.), whose district is one of the bluest represented by a Republican, also plans to attend, but embattled fellow Long Island Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) does not, according to Newsday.

The other side: Rep. Robert Garcia, the Democrats' freshman class president, is attending and told Axios in a statement, “We are very grateful to the President for inviting the entire freshman class to a reception. Taking a COVID test is a reasonable and responsible approach to keeping everyone safe and healthy.”

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to note that Rep. Robert Garcia is a Democrat, not a Republican.

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