WASHINGTON — Rep. Louie Gohmert’s positive coronavirus test has the potential to have far-reaching effects: from his contacts with fellow members and staffers to possible enhanced protective measures around the Capitol.
The Texas Republican has frequently skipped wearing a mask around the Capitol complex and his positive diagnosis is spurring calls from Democratic leaders to reconsider a testing mandate for lawmakers.
Politico first reported the news of Gohmert’s test result, which came because he was scheduled to go to Texas with President Donald Trump and was required to undergo a test.
“Too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters on a press call Wednesday.
The Maryland Democrat added that the Gohmert revelation should revive a discussion of whether members need to be tested before entering the Capitol. “We’re not mandating testing at this point ... but we’re discussing that,” Hoyer said. “We have discussed it in the past. This is a moment, I think, where we ought to be discussing it again.”
Hoyer also noted the case of Gohmert, who was present at Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, supports the Democrats’ advocacy and use of proxy voting, which House Republicans have strongly opposed.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and many other Republicans filed a lawsuit against Speaker Nancy Pelosi to block the practice of voting by proxy.
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused White House help to implement a testing regime for members in May, saying the resources should be allocated to hospitals and other places on the front line.
Gohmert was among the members taking part in an hourslong Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, and was one of a few Republicans who did not keep a mask on. Attorney General William Barr, the hearing’s witness, has reportedly taken a test due to his proximity to those members and Gohmert.
The coronavirus is not just affecting members of Congress; there are at least 81 front-line workers in the Capitol complex who have tested positive — or are presumed positive — for COVID-19, as of July 21.
There has been no guidance from leadership despite the rising cases.
“Oh, I’m so sorry for him,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “But I’m also sorry my members are concerned because he’s been showing up to his meetings without a mask and making a thing of it. So hopefully now he’ll look after his health and others.”
Pelosi announced Wednesday that masks would now be required on the House floor. She reminded those present that, “the speaker has the authority to direct the sergeant at arms to remove a member from the floor as a matter of decorum.”
Despite the diagnosis, Gohmert continued to question whether wearing a mask prevents spread of the virus, which puts him at odds with the medical and scientific consensus.
“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place that if I might have put some germs, some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in. I don’t know, but I got it,” he told KETK.