With masks, gloves, and wipes, House gets back to work for a day

Back from their districts to vote on an over $480 billion emergency relief measure to deal with the spread of the Coronavirus, members of the House from both parties tried to press on with their work on Capitol Hill for one day, dealing with an array of new social distancing measures designed to keep them safe from the virus outbreak.

"We're here today functioning," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) during debate on the House floor, as numerous lawmakers said they were glad to be back at the U.S. Capitol.

"Obviously, we're doing things differently. We're a bit out of our comfort zone as a body," said Cole, who wore a mask - but took it off at times when he spoke on the House floor.

"We should be mindful of the people surrounding us," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who sported a mask with the team logo of the New England Patriots, as he urged all members to keep their mask on at all times.

But there were some - mainly GOP lawmakers - who resisted wearing a mask at all.

"Our nation faces a deadly virus," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the floor, her scarf pulled down around her neck for her speech. "We come to the floor with 50,000 deaths - a huge number."

While most other work was on hold, the House Small Business Committee - led by a New York Democrat who already dealt with a likely case of the virus, Rep. Nydia Velazquez - heard from members about their concerns for small businesses during this pandemic.

In the hearing room which was far emptier than normal, lawmakers were spread out, with signs all around reminding them to keep six feet apart from each other, as certain seats were cordoned off.

"SIX FEET," read the sign hastily taped to the wall of the committee hearing room behind lawmakers.


On a day of testimony from multiple members of Congress, as soon as one lawmaker was done, a staffer quickly tried to wipe away any germs left at the witness table.

In the halls of the Capitol off the House floor, there were signs indicating where lawmakers should stand, as they were slated to vote in groups - arranged alphabetically.

But with 435 members doing things 435 different ways, it was a day in Capitol Hill contrasts on the Coronavirus.

In committee, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) wore both a mask and gloves - but when he spoke later on the House floor, his mask and gloves were gone.

Some spoke with their mask off - others let the mask dangle from their ear while they talked.

There were lawmakers wearing orange gloves, purple gloves, pink gloves, and regular hospital-color blue gloves - some just put on their winter black leather gloves. Most had no gloves at all.

The masks were blue, white and black, with some wearing homemade fabric masks.

The House Chaplain had a yellow mask.

As on the House floor, if you saw a lawmaker in the committee not wearing a mask, it was more likely to be a Republican.

“I'm going to keep my mask on,” said Rep. McGovern.

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