Georgia Reps. Greene, Clyde rack up thousands in mask fines

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

WASHINGTON — Georgia U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde have logged tens of thousands of dollars in fines after refusing to wear masks on the House floor.

Both are ultraconservative Republicans serving their first year in the House. Lately they have refused to wear masks on the House floor nearly every time a vote is called, defying precautions that Speaker Nancy Pelosi put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Greene says she has chosen to actively defy a rule she believes is unjust and unnecessary.

“Over the past year and a half, Communist Democrats have ruled our country as tyrannical dictators with mandates and lock downs,” the Rome Republican said in a statement this month after receiving notice of additional infractions. “Now, the American people have had enough and are standing up against these outrageous and unconstitutional policies. I will continue my stand on the House floor against authoritarian Democrat mandates, because I don’t want the American people to stand alone.”

Clyde, who lives in Athens, has not spoken publicly about the fines. His office sent an email indicating Clyde is no longer abiding by the mask mandate because the rules were relaxed slightly by Pelosi in May, four months after House Democrats voted to implement the fines.

To date, Greene has received notices of fines totaling $60,500. House members receive a warning after their first violation, which for Greene was on May 18. The next day she was fined $500 for a first violation. Every infraction since then has cost her $2,500.

The fines are docked from their paychecks. Members of Congress earn $174,000 a year in salary.

Greene appealed her initial mask policy violations, but the House Ethics Committee upheld them. She and two other conservative lawmakers filed a lawsuit in July arguing the fines violate the 27th Amendment, which states members of the House must vote to raise or decrease their salaries. Because the fines are imposed by reducing members’ pay, the lawsuit argues that is an unconstitutional reduction.

Oral arguments are scheduled for next month in the case.

Clyde is not one of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit. However, he has a separate one pending that makes a similar argument regarding fines he received in February for failing to walk through metal detectors outside the House chamber. Pelosi implemented that rule following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol after many Democrats said they felt unsafe around some of their Republican colleagues.

Clyde was fined $15,000 after walking around the security device on two separate occasions. He appealed, but again the Ethics Committee said the violations were just. He and another lawmaker filed their lawsuit in June, and that case is pending.

The congressman initially complied with the mask mandate. Since at least September, however, he has joined Greene in repeatedly refusing to cover his face during votes on the House floor.

Clyde’s office did not respond to questions about the total number of infractions he received for violating the mask policy. But the Ethics Committee publicly disclosed that he did not file appeals within 30 days for violations on Sept. 21, 22, 27, 28,. 29, 30 and Oct. 1.

They all were upheld, representing at minimum $15,500 in fines. It is unclear whether Clyde plans to amend his lawsuit regarding the metal detector fines to also include a challenge to the mask policy.

CNN reported that Clyde substantially increased the amount of money withheld from his paycheck for taxes in order to reduce his take-home pay and avoid paying the fines. Clyde’s office has neither confirmed nor denied the report, which was based on comments one of his Republican colleagues made in July.

If he has avoided paying fines in this manner, that could affect his standing to follow through on lawsuits challenging their constitutionality.

Greene’s office would not comment on whether she paid her fines or took similar steps to avoid paying.