GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas), who has largely opted against wearing a mask around the Capitol, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to congressional aides.
Gohmert’s positive cast immediately led to new criticism on Capitol Hill directed at those who do not wear masks. Gohmert’s positive case came a day after he attended a hearing with Attorney General Bill Barr and other colleagues.
Gohmert, 66, has spoken about not wearing a mask.
“I don’t have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I’ve never had it. But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask,” he told CNN in June.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Barr will be tested today.
On Tuesday, Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Gohmet walked around his colleagues in the hearing room and outside it without a mask.
Politico first reported Gohmert’s positive test.
Rep. Gohmert, who was without a mask, stood outside the men’s bathroom where Barr went before he walked into the “hearing” room.
Once out, Gohmert approached the AG and exchanged a comment or two.
Would say from memory, they were within arms length. https://t.co/eAhHXT07Kz
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) July 29, 2020
ACTUALLY… here is a video of AG Barr and Gohmert.
While Barr arrived with a mask, it was off when he walked into the hearing room, so both men were not wearing masks at this time. pic.twitter.com/xm6wuq6QvW
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) July 29, 2020
Gohmert has at times worn a facial covering while on Capitol Hill. But he has been among the handful of GOP lawmakers spotted on the House floor in recent weeks without a mask while mingling with colleagues.
Gohmert also raised eyebrows in March after he returned to the Capitol despite potential exposure to the coronavirus in March while attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. Other lawmakers had self-quarantined out of fear of exposure.
Gohmert said at the time that he was cleared by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention physician to resume business at the Capitol.
The lawmaker represents a state in Texas that has been a hot spot for the coronavirus, having some of the highest case counts in the country.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, responded to the news of Gohmert’s infection by condemning, more broadly, those Republicans who are still refusing to wear masks as they roam around Capitol Hill.
Those lawmakers, Jeffries charged, are threatening the health of everyone around them simply out of “fealty” to President Trump.
“I’m concerned about the irresponsible behavior of many of the Republicans who have chosen to consistently flout well-established public-health guidance, perhaps out of fealty to their boss, Donald Trump, who is the head of the anti-mask movement in America,” Jeffries told reporters in the Capitol.
Jeffries urged Republicans to “stop politicizing public health guidance and do the right thing.”
“Because they are jeopardizing the safety and well-being of others,” he said.
Gohmert is now the 10th member of Congress with a presumed or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), as well as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have also tested positive for the disease.
House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) also said in late March that she had been diagnosed with a “presumed” case after displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19, but was not officially tested.
Most of the lawmakers who’ve had COVID-19 tested positive in March and April when physical distancing measures to curb spread of the disease had only just begun.
The handful who have come down with COVID-19 since then are all Republicans, some of whom have flouted guidelines like wearing masks.
Griffith tested positive earlier this month only five days after participating in a press conference on Capitol Hill to push for reopening schools for in-person instruction in the fall. Griffith wore a mask at the event, which took place outdoors, but removed it while speaking at the microphone.
Rice had been among the GOP lawmakers spotted on the House floor in late May without wearing a mask. He told CNN at the time that “I’m socially distancing. I’m staying six feet away from folks.”
House Democrats began requiring face masks at committee hearings in June shortly after Rice’s diagnosis. Some committee leaders, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.), have since made it a policy to not grant speaking time to any member not wearing a mask.
Nadler admonished some GOP lawmakers for not wearing masks during the hearing with Barr on Tuesday, including Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Mike Johnson (La.).
“I would remind Mr. Jordan, Mr. Biggs, and Mr. Johnson to stop violating the rules of the committee, to stop violating the safety of the members of the committee, to stop holding themselves out as not caring by refusing to wear their masks,” Nadler said.
Story cited here.