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The politicized issue of wearing protective face masks took center stage on the Senate floor as lawmakers got into a testy exchange about the protocol.
Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and Ohio Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown raised eyebrows on Monday as the subject of wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus became personal. The on-camera moment, which earned a scathing rebuke from fellow Sen. Ted Cruz on Twitter, unfolded as Brown asked Sullivan to put his mask on.
“I’d start by asking the presiding officer to please wear a mask as he speaks,” the Democrat began as soon as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave him the floor.
“I don’t wear a mask when I’m speaking like most senators,” Sullivan shot back. “I don’t need your instruction.”
“I know you don’t need my instruction,” Brown responded. “But there clearly isn’t much interest in this body in public health.”
“We have a president who hasn’t shown up at a coronavirus task force meeting in months. We have a majority leader that calls us back here to vote on an unqualified nominee and at the same time to vote on judge after judge after judge, exposing all of the people who can’t say anything, I understand, the people in front of you and the presiding officer and expose all the staff here,” he continued, apparently referring to Senate staffers.
There appeared to be someone standing in front of Sullivan’s chair in the video as Brown made his digs against McConnell, R-Ky., and President Trump’s Federal Reserve nominee Judy Shelton.
“The American people sent a clear message in this election. They voted for stability,” Brown claimed. “They rejected an administration that has failed them in the middle of a public health crisis and an economic crisis. People want a government that works for them and is on their side.”
Brown bemoaned the mask-wearing issue in a post on Twitter where he shared the video from the Senate floor.
“Once again, I asked my Republican colleagues to stop endangering all the Senate workers – and simply wear a mask when presiding over the Senate,” he tweeted. “Once again, they refused.”
Cruz slammed the Democrat for being “idiotic” and only wearing his face mask while he spoke to signal “fake virtue.”
“This is idiotic. @SherrodBrown is being a complete ass. He wears a mask to speak—when nobody is remotely near him—as an ostentatious sign of fake virtue,” the Texas Republican tweeted, adding that Sullivan “was over 50 feet away, presiding. Last I checked 50 feet is more than 6 feet.”
While plenty of liberals applauded Brown for his grandstanding, there didn’t seem to be any remarks about the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who has spoken on the floor multiple times in recent days without a mask. He was even seen after the election celebrating with a crowd wearing no mask.
Yes, that’s Chuck Schumer. Yes, he is not social distancing. Yes, he is not wearing a mask. Yes, this is complete and unmistakable hypocrisy. But, when in Rome. pic.twitter.com/xWFjAMoCs6
— 🇺🇸Lionel🇺🇸 (@LionelMedia) November 8, 2020
The mask debate comes as the nation is seeing a reported surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, with the 11 millionth confirmed case in the U.S. reported on Sunday. One million new cases were confirmed over the past week alone.
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