• Ben Szalinski
    FEB 18, 2022


    House Democrats boot 9 Republicans for not wearing masks in chamber after bitter debate

    Rep. Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago) requests nine Republicans be removed from the House Thursday for not wearing a mask. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), left, and Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock), right, voice their objections.

    After three days of trying, Rep. Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago) successfully removed nine House Republicans from the chamber Thursday after the members refused to wear masks as required by House rules.  

    The House voted 66-39 to remove Reps. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford), Tony McCombie (R-Savanna), Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville), Adam Niemerg (R-Dieterich), David Welter (R-Morris), David Friess (R-Red Bud), Chris Miller (R-Oakland) and Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport).   

    It was the third day in a row Collins made a motion to remove Republicans for not wearing a mask, but the first time a vote was taken. House rule 51.5 requires each member to wear a mask at all times unless eating, drinking or being recognized to speak.   

    “This body is doing everything that we can on this side of the aisle to make sure the people’s work is being done,” Collins said. “But you all on that side of the aisle have been making this chamber a clown show. If you choose not to wear your mask, do that outside the chamber. But while we’re in here, I ask that you respect the chamber’s rules.”  

    Republicans complained that masks don’t work and said the rule is just another way Democrats are leaving Gov. JB Pritzker unchecked. They expressed solidarity with school children and parents who have also defied rules about masks in schools.   

    “It’s a total lack of common sense, a total lack of critical thought and the people of Illinois are done with it,” Wilhour said. “It’s time that we set an example that sanity is going to make a return here.”   

    Some Republicans pointed back to Democrats, saying they were making the motion a part of their own political show.   

    “We’ve seen you all outside in congregate settings without your masks on,” Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) said after Collins originally tried to remove him from the chamber as well. 

    Reick went on to say he knows some Democrats agree with Republicans that it’s time to put the masks away because the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules declined to give the state health department power to require masks in schools during a vote earlier this week.  

    McCombie, who appeared to refuse to leave the chamber despite being asked to leave, said she was not trying to disrespect anyone. She said she has been respectful around Democratic lawmakers and wore her mask.  

    The debate turned personal, however, after Chesney directly called out Collins and accused her of not caring about people murdered in Chicago. Collins responded with her own accusations while looking at Chesney, saying Republicans don’t care about poor voters. Without saying a name, Collins said “you sir, have hatred.”  

    House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) stepped into the debate afterward asking members to “bring down the temperature.”  

    “It’s within the rules,” Durkin said. “I understand it. The rules are the rules. We can have a discussion about that. But the previous speaker [Collins] [moved] along outside of that debate into things that are not relevant to whether a person should be removed or not does not help this caucus. It does not put me in a frame of mind that there is still a place for civility.”  

    Welch and Durkin traded letters with each other last week asking for more civility in the political process.  

    After being voted out of the chamber, Sosnowski issued a statement calling it “political theater.”  

    Illinois’ indoor mask mandate is set to end of Feb. 28, but House Speaker Chris Welch’s (D-Hillside) spokesperson Jaclyn Driscoll said House leaders do not plan to lift their own requirement that people in the chamber wear masks.  

    Welch said the Republicans’ attempt to get around the mask rule is their way of making it more difficult for lawmakers to get things done.  

    “Why are we arguing about masks today?” Welch said during a separate debate on the floor. “[To] slow everything down. Bring this place to a halt.” 

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