GOP congressman wants to ban colleagues from wearing masks he doesn't like


As COVID cases spike nationally, Rep. Jim Banks is very upset that a colleague wore a mask with a cannabis leaf design.

As the coronavirus spreads uncontrolled across the nation, Rep. Jim Banks (R-GA) demanded last week that the House take immediate action on face masks. Not to require them — but to ban ones with designs he finds offensive.

In a Friday letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Banks called for "a blanket ban on stylized facemasks" in Congress. He was upset that, a day earlier, one Democratic colleague wore a mask that "appeared to display his campaign logo" and another wore a mask "covered in marijuana leaves" on the House floor.

"Legality aside," Banks wrote, "it is unbecoming for a House member to wear clothing that promotes the use of any recreational drugs on the House floor." He argued that doing so violates rules about the "credibility of the House."

Banks also nostalgically noted that, nearly two decades ago, then-Speaker Denny Hastert — an Illinois Republican who later served time in jail for being a "serial child molester" — once "admonished a member for engaging in debate without a jacket."

With more than 175,000 new coronavirus cases reported on Sunday alone, the nation is experiencing its worst spike yet. More than 1,000 Americans are dying daily and hospitals lack the capacity to care for all of those seriously ill from the virus.

But Banks has not focused on efforts to curb this problem. He has repeatedly ignored mask and social distancing guidelines at indoor public events.

Banks has previously expressed hostility to mask mandates. He mocked Pelosi (D-CA) in July for requiring members to wear masks, but taking off her own mask briefly to make the announcement. He blasted outdoor mask mandates as unnecessary because a study showed few transmissions outside. And he complained about media coverage of community spread at religious services, falsely comparing them to outdoor anti-racism rallies and demanding to know why spread at those did not receive similar coverage as a "major source of coronavirus cases."

In April, Banks decried stay-at-home orders as unconstitutional. In June, he introduced a bill to deny federal funds to any public schools that did not reopen with full in-person classes, arguing, "Reopening our schools is the lynchpin to reopening our economy. Many parents rely on their kids going to school so they can go to work. To get our society up and running again, we need our children back in school."

Though dozens of his colleagues in Congress have tested positive for the virus, Banks voted in May against a rule change to temporarily allow members to work from home during the pandemic.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.