Democratic Congressman Don Beyer donned a brown scarf as a face mask and wore a pair of gloves Friday when he gaveled the House of Representatives into session.
‘The House will be in order,’ the Democrat from Virginia said as he bagged the gavel, signaling the chamber was open for business.
Beyer said his daughter made him the mask.
‘My daughter made this for me. It’s not my normal look but we are not living in normal times,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘Those who would lead must do first by example.’
Beyer was following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control to wear a face mask in public settings. The mask prevents those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus but are asymptomatic from passing along the disease.
Democratic Congressman Don Beyer donned a brown scarf as a face mask and wore a pair of gloves Friday when he gaveled the House of Representatives into session
House Chaplain Father Patrick Conroy offered his prayer wearing a pair of white plastic gloves
President Donald Trump has called this advice was voluntary and said he would not wear a face mask even as first lady Melania Trump encouraged people to do so and was photographed wearing one.
In early March, Congressman Beyer and his wife underwent a voluntary self-quarantine after attending a dinner party with a person who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Beyer was never tested.
After he opened the House session on Friday morning, House Chaplain Father Patrick Conroy offered his prayer, wearing a pair of white plastic gloves while he offered blessings in honor of Good Friday and Passover.
‘God of mercy thank you for giving us another day,’ Conroy said.
‘Good Friday, a day when millions of Americans recall and morn the death of the suffering servant. Good Friday, today, when thousands of Americans are servants, suffering through the care of those stricken by #COVIDー19 with inadequate safety supplies,’ he added. ‘Passover when millions American experience the lack of freedom to gather with family, to celebrate the passages of life together.’
Conroy concluded with a prayer for protection from the coronavirus, which infected more than 469,000 and killed more than 16,000 Americans.
‘Lord, these are days of suffering and turmoil not only for millions of Americans but for all your children throughout the world. Help us, heal us, have mercy on us. Protect those who daily place themselves in harms way in serve to those suffering from the coronavirus,’ he said.
Friday morning’s pro forma session was less than five minutes long and there appeared to be about a dozen people on the House floor – all standing at least six feet a part as part of social distancing guidelines.
Less than a dozen people were on the House floor for Friday morning’s short pro forma session and all spread several feet apart in accordance with social distancing guidelines
In early March, Congressman Don Beyer and his wife underwent a voluntary self-quarantine after attending a dinner party with a person who later tested positive for the coronavirus
During long recesses, both the House and Senate will gavel into short pro forma sessions from time-to-time.
These sessions have no legislative purpose – as no bills are passed and no votes are taken – but have been used politically in the past to thwart a president who may try to push a recess appointment that would avoid a confirmation vote.
The sessions are usually gaveled in and out by a local lawmaker. In this case, Beyer represents Northern Virginia, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. and a short drive to the Capitol building.
When Beyer banged the House out, he noted it would be back in session onTuesday April 24.
But that date is in doubt after Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not commit to bringing back Congress this month even as officials debate a fourth rescue package for the economy, which has been devastated by the virus.
Congressional leaders had told lawmakers they could return to Washington D.C. after April 20th to get back to legislating but Pelosi would not commit to that.
‘Nobody can really tell you that and I would never venture a guess. I certainly don’t think we should do it sooner than we should,’ she told Politico in an interview.
The speaker has been critical of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘As the president fiddles, people are dying,’ she told CNN’s Jake Tapper on ‘State of the Union’ at the end of March.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not commit to lawmakers returning the Capitol Hill this month; she and other members practice safe social distancing in late March when she signed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package
The House ceremony was in contrast to President Donald Trump signing the coronavirus package where aides and lawmakers crowded around him in the Oval Office
Pelosi also said she would not be tested for the coronavirus even after she was in close proximity to Representative Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York, who was presumed to have the disease.
‘In terms of my situation, I kept my distance. I said to them we all have to be six feet apart and I kept my distance from all the members,’ Pelosi told MSNBC last month.
She said her doctor told her that her situation was low-risk and she had no reason to take any measures.
Velazquez attended the ceremony last month where Pelosi signed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan.
Lawmakers at that event stood several feet a part in accordance with social distancing recommendations.
It was a notable contrast to the Oval Office when President Trump formally signed the package into law. He was surrounded – in close quarters – by Republican lawmakers, members of his cabinet, and members of the coronavirus task force.
Capitol Hill essentially shut down after lawmakers passed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package in late March. Several House members returned to Washington D.C. to vote on the measure but promptly departed again.
The building itself is closed to visitors until May 1.
All the food services in House Office Buildings – including the main cafeteria in the Longworth House Office Building and the ever popular Dunkin Donuts – are closed.
The small Capitol Market take out in the basement of the Capitol is only open half a day.
The dry cleaner is closed, as is the House barber shop and the shoe shine, according to a notice sent out jointly by the House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House Philip Kiko to all staff in late March.
The U.S. Capitol building is closed to tourists until May 1
Food services are shut down in the House Office Buildings, including the popular Dunkin Donuts
Most congressional staff live in Washington D.C. or the Maryland or Virginia suburbs – all areas that have issued stay at home orders.
Many Capitol Hill staff are teleworking but have been told they are considered ‘essential’ employees if they need to come to the Capitol.
U.S. Capitol Police have told local authorities travel to the Capitol is permitted, Irving told staff in a note last month.
‘In the event a Member or staff member cannot telework and finds it necessary to have to travel to the Capitol Complex, the United States Capitol Police has already communicated to all local law enforcement agencies the essential nature and responsibility of the legislative branch under Article I of the U.S. Constitution,’ he said.
‘For your health and safety, and for the health and safety of those around you, I encourage you to stay at home and telework where possible. However, if you must access your office or place of work, the United States Capitol Police advisory in conjunction with the text of the Governors’ and Mayor’s orders will permit everyone who is required to travel or commute for work to be able to do so,’ Irving said.