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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

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker
9 hours ago - Sports

Novak Djokovic loses Australian visa appeal

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2022. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Tennis star Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday evening, facing a three-year visa ban after an appeals court in the country revoked his visa.

Driving the news: Djokovic will not be able to defend his Australian Open title when the tournament starts in Melbourne. The World No. 1 is looking to break a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most Grand Slam men's singles titles.

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