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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Uncertainty about why only 75% of the House is confirmed as vaccinated against the coronavirus is fueling a debate about when the chamber can return to its normal rules of operation.

Between the lines: The other 25% of members have either refused to get the vaccine, have not reported getting it at home or are avoiding it because of medical conditions. Until the Office of Attending Physician is clear about this, it can't make recommendations "regarding the modification or relaxation of existing social distancing guidelines."

  • Congress has its own supply of the coronavirus vaccine. While it's not certain which party is most to blame for any vaccine hesitancy, the phenomenon is higher among white Republicans than any other demographic group, as Axios has reported.
  • “I won’t be taking it. The survival rate is too high for me to want it,” 25-year-old Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) told Axios in December.

Why it matters: Multiple waves of voting, meant to ensure social distancing inside the House chamber, are slowing a full legislative schedule.

  • It's also giving power to disrupters like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who's used a procedural move to further drag out the process.
  • Votes can take more than three times longer than pre-pandemic times.

What they're saying: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) had a lively debate on the House floor Thursday about reopening.

  • "Now that we have seen from reports ... that roughly 75% of all members in this House have had a vaccination for COVID-19, there's a strong desire to get back to a regular floor schedule," said Scalise.
  • "It would be a lot simpler if every member had been vaccinated," Hoyer replied.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent guidelines suggest avoiding "large events and gatherings, when possible."

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last Wednesday. He asked for timelines of when the House will end proxy voting, extended voting sessions and resume full-time, in-person committee hearings.

  • "Simply put: it’s time that we return to regular order. House Republicans are eager for the chance to reopen the People’s House, restore America’s voice in Congress and work day in and day out to address the many concerns our constituents face," wrote McCarthy (R-Calif.)
  • “The House continues to conduct our business in accordance with public health guidelines and in consultation with the Office of the Attending Physician," Hoyer spokesperson Margaret Mulkerrin said in a statement to Axios.
  • "The health and safety of members, legislative staff, journalists and House employees remains paramount."

What's next: A memo sent last by the Office Attending Physician, obtained by Axios, urged continued social distancing and mask-wearing by members.

  • The office cares for those in the House and Senate, as well as the Supreme Court.
  • The OAP urged members who had received vaccinations from outside the OAP's domain to report them.
  • In addition, the office said members who had previously contracted COVID-19 "are strongly encouraged to complete a full SARS-oV2 vaccination course at the earliest possible opportunity."

The bottom line: The Office of Attending Physician reinstated the use of the congressional gym showers, locker room and swimming pool on Friday evening, according to the memo.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
56 mins ago - Technology

Israel's new PM Naftali Bennett made his name as a millionaire tech founder

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Naftali Bennett yesterday became prime minister of Israel, succeeding Benjamin Netanyahu, after his power-sharing government survived a vote of confidence.

Why it matters: Bennett becomes Israel's first new prime minister since 2009, and he takes office as Netanyahu stands trial for corruption.

2 hours ago - World

Biden at NATO summit: Collective defense is "a sacred obligation"

President Joe Biden is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO summit. Photo: Patrick Semansky/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed the United States' commitment to NATO during a sit-down with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the president's first meeting of NATO's 2021 summit in Brussels.

Why it matters: Biden has used his first international trip as president to reassure allies of his administration's commitment to multilateralism and to NATO's Article 5, which stipulates that the entire alliance will respond to an attack on any member nation.

Climate reality collides with rhetoric at the G7 summit

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Leaders of the G7 agreed to a sweeping new agenda over the weekend. But while the communique they issued is lofty in goals, it lacks crucial details on climate.

Why it matters: The G7's paucity of specifics on climate finance and domestic coal consumption, in particular, calls into question the ability of the wealthiest nations to take sufficient action on global warming.

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