Democrats want to allow 60-year-olds into Medicare as part of Biden’s infrastructure package

Rep. Pramila Jayapal congress tech antitrust hearing
Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

  • Democrats are attempting to expand Medicare as a part of Biden’s infrastructure plans.
  • “Medicare expansion means more coverage for more people,” a top Democrat said.
  • The effort may be derailed by Joe Manchin, who says he opposes enlarging Medicare access.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The latest Democratic battle to expand Medicare access is under way.

A group of more than 150 House Democrats from the progressive and centrist wings of the party are launching a campaign to include an expansion of Medicare in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, The New York Times reported.

They sent a letter on Thursday to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arguing to widen the federal health program so it includes a broader range of Americans, along with growing the range of benefits provided so it includes dental, vision, and hearing aids.

“Medicare expansion means more coverage for more people – and by finally allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, it’s at a lower cost for taxpayers,” Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal, a leader of the effort, said in a Friday tweet. “Let’s get this done.”

The plan would cut the eligibility age from 65 to 60, adding roughly 23 million Americans into the government health insurance program. The group projects it would amount to $200 billion over a decade. They say the price tag would be offset with another proposal: empowering Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, which Democrats have failed to achieve in the past.

The effort is certain to trigger Republican opposition and potentially reopen a fierce debate among Democrats on healthcare. The last Democratic presidential primary was largely defined by policy brawls over Medicare for All and whether Americans should be able to keep their private coverage in a reform effort.

Expanding Medicare access is popular with voters, however, particularly reducing prescription drug costs. Up to now, however, Biden and Democrats have directed their efforts at expanding the insurance subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act.

Widening Medicare coverage could run into roadblocks in the Senate from centrist Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has stated his opposition, complicating the path ahead for other Democrats supportive of the measure. “No, I’m not for it, period,” he told The Washington Post last month. It’s unclear why Manchin opposes it, although he told The Hill in 2019 the government “can’t even pay for Medicare for some.”

Biden continues negotiating with Republicans on an infrastructure plan, and the talks are set to stretch into at least early June. The White House did not include a Medicare expansion or a blueprint to cut the price of prescription drugs in its economic plans, though it called on Congress to approve the measures in its budget without laying out specific policies.

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59 House Democrats urge Biden to ditch Republicans and go even bigger on $7 trillion of infrastructure spending

Rep. Pramila Jayapal congress tech antitrust hearing
Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

  • House Democrats sent a letter to Democratic leadership urging them to go even bigger on infrastructure funding.
  • They said that Biden should see past GOP negotiations and pass an urgently needed bill.
  • Biden has remained committed to bipartisanship and plans to negotiate on another GOP counter-offer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bipartisanship is the theme of President Joe Biden’s agenda these days, with him dedicating the majority of his May in persuading both sides of the aisle to get on board with his $4 trillion infrastructure plan.

But House Democrats are worried that these negotiations, while well-intentioned, could narrow down legislation that Americans urgently need, and they want Biden to go bigger – in line with his campaign promises.

Led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Jimmy Panetta of California, 59 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday, urging them to take the opportunity to go big on infrastructure investments. They outlined three priorities regarding the size, scope, and speed of Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and they urged the congressional leaders to not get bogged down by Republican counter-offers. The letter was first reported on by ABC News.

“We appreciate the White House’s interest in reaching across the aisle to seek Republican support for overwhelmingly popular infrastructure priorities to invest in caregiving, workforce development, the environment, housing, and education, and to make the very wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce inequality,” they wrote in the letter. “While bipartisan support is welcome, the pursuit of Republican votes cannot come at the expense of limiting the scope of popular investments.”

A group of Senate Republicans, led by Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, introduced a $568 billion counter-proposal to Biden’s infrastructure plan. They have a Tuesday deadline to bring the president a new offer to negotiate, but Democrats don’t want this to be the focus of Biden’s agenda.

Here are the three main priorities the Democrats outlined to Schumer and Pelosi:

(1) Size

The lawmakers want Biden to prioritize his campaign promise of a $7 trillion infrastructure investment, including a four-year, $2 trillion investment on climate-focused infrastructure. Currently, Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposes $2.3 trillion over eight years, but Democrats want Biden to “maintain an ambitious infrastructure size” and go even bigger.

(2) Scope

After Republicans introduced their $568 billion infrastructure plan, Democrats called it “a joke” and “a slap in the face” given how small it was compared to Biden’s. In the letter, the Democrats cited Republicans’ “widespread climate denial,” among other things, as reasons to see past bipartisan negotiations and not succumb to a deal that doesn’t meet the needs of the economy and the climate.

(3) Speed

Given the fierce Republican opposition to Biden’s infrastructure plan as he proposed it, the Democratic group said “that robust legislation comprising the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan must be enacted as rapidly as possible, preferably as a single, ambitious package combining physical and social investments hand in hand.”

Republican lawmakers said that Biden’s plan focuses on too many things beyond physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, but Democrats remained firm in their messaging that care-economy measures, like universal pre-K and affordable housing, belong in infrastructure.

Biden and Republican lawmakers have expressed the desire to strike a bipartisan deal by Memorial Day, and Pelosi aims to get a bill to the House floor by July 4. Democratic leaders, including Pelosi and Schumer, have remained optimistic on reaching a bipartisan agreement.

“The president has his vision,” Pelosi told reporters last week. “The Congress will work its will. In any event, I felt optimistic about our ability to pass such a bill, and more optimistic now about being able to do so in a bipartisan way.”

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Democrats urge Biden to stop using local police to enforce federal immigration law

GettyImages 1302314488
An LED truck displaying messages expressing concern over the continuing mass deportations of Black immigrants drives past the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prior to a #BidenAlsoDeports rally on February 15, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • Sen. Cory Booker and other Democrats want local police to stop enforcing federal immigration law.
  • In a letter, the lawmakers urged DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately terminate” the policy.
  • They argue that using local police makes immigrants afraid to report crimes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

By enlisting local police in efforts to carry out deportations, the federal government is making the country less safe by discouraging immigrants from coming forward to report serious crimes, Democratic lawmakers argued Thursday in an appeal to the Biden administration.

In an April 22 letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, head of the US Department of Homeland Security, Sen. Cory Booker urged the new administration to “immediately terminate” so-called 287(g) agreements, which effectively allow state and local police “to function as federal immigration agents.”

The New Jersey Democrat was joined on the letter by Rep. Mike Quigley, of Illinois, and Washington’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Should the Biden administration fail to act, the lawmakers are prepared to fall back on new legislation, “The PROTECT Immigration Act,” repealing the federal government’s authority to deputize state and local law enforcement.

“Immigration enforcement should not be delegated to state and local police departments that are not equipped to enforce immigration laws – it is the job of the federal government,” Sen. Booker said in a statement. “These agreements undermine public safety and result in the racial profiling and harassment of members of the immigrant community.”

Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy director at the ACLU, praised the effort to repeal the program. There is a “growing consensus” that such collaboration is harmful, she told Insider, arguing that it “encourages racial profiling and makes everyone less safe.”

What 287(g) does

Under the 287(g) program, initiated by Congress in 1996, participating law enforcement may interrogate suspected noncitizens who have already been arrested; as of July 2020, police departments in 21 states do this, according to the American Immigration Council. Departments in nine states also directly enforce administrative warrants from US Customs and Immigration Enforcement.”

Perhaps the most infamous partner of the federal government was the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, in Arizona, under Joe Arpaio, which in 2007 had signed an agreement with DHS allowing trained officers to interrogate “any alien or person believed to be an alien.” A 2011 investigation by the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division subsequently found the department “engages in racial profiling of Latinos.”

A federal court, the same year, ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people solely for immigration offenses; he refused and was later convicted of criminal contempt.

In light of such abuses, President Barack Obama terminated some previous 287(g) agreements and “generally limited” their use, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. That came after not just unlawful abuse, but evidence that the program was being used to target “noncitizens arrested for misdemeanors and traffic offenses,” not serious offenders, per the Migration Policy Institute.

President Donald Trump, however, expanded the program, signing 23 agreements with local law enforcement in Texas alone. That, along with highly visible mass raids in major cities, was followed by a steep decline in both lawful and undocumented immigrants coming forward to report domestic violence and other crimes, according to law enforcement.

President Biden has rescinded a number of his predecessor’s policies on immigration, resulting in significantly fewer arrests and formal deportations, not including those summarily removed after crossing the border. But he has thus far declined to terminate 287(g) and related programs, such as “Secure Communities,” which allows local law enforcement to share arrested individuals’ fingerprints with ICE.

In February, more than 60 members of Congress urged the president to end those initiatives.

DHS did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“While we’ve begun a new presidential administration, we still need to put an end to our country’s long history of targeting, profiling, and tearing apart immigrant communities while criminalizing those who call them home,” Rep. Jayapal said in a statement.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Mitch McConnell slams Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan as ‘a major missed opportunity’

Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

  • Biden unveiled the first part of his $4 trillion infrastructure plan on Wednesday.
  • McConnell said the $2 trillion plan focuses on things he doesn’t consider infrastructure and pushes a liberal agenda.
  • While the GOP says Biden’s plan does too much, progressives say it doesn’t do enough.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden unveiled the first part of his $4 trillion infrastructure plan on Wednesday, and it contained funding for not only roads and bridges, but for investments in technology such as electric vehicles, labor and workforce development, housing and education, and more.

Calling it “a major missed opportunity,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill focuses less on physical infrastructure and more on catering to Democrats’ agendas.

On Wednesday, while some lawmakers lauded Biden’s proposal to confront big issues facing the country, like climate change and racial inequality, McConnell released a statement saying that less than 6% of the plan goes to roads and bridges, and more money is allocated to electric vehicles than roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways, combined.

“It contains sweeping far-left priorities like attacking blue-collar Americans’ Right to Work protections, a huge favor to Big Labor bosses,” McConnell said. “Every time that far-left dogma clashes with the interests of American families, today’s Democrats pick the dogma.”

McConnell also criticized Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion tax hike to fund the infrastructure plan and said infrastructure was being used as a “Trojan horse for the largest set of tax hikes in a generation.”

The tax hike proposed by Biden would be entirely levied against corporations, and partially reverses the Trump-era 2017 tax cut that reduced the rate from 35% to 21%, bringing it up to 28%. Biden said on Wednesday that the corporate tax rate would still be lower it was “between World War Two and 2017. Just doing that one thing will generate $1 trillion in additional revenue over 15 years.”

Republicans want to go smaller, progressives want to go bigger

McConnell’s critiques of the infrastructure plan are not new to his party. Even before the details of the plan were released, Republican lawmakers said they would not support a plan that focuses on elements beyond repairing physical infrastructure, like investments with climate change in mind, which Biden has made a core component of his infrastructure proposal since his campaign.

“Republicans won’t support another Green New Deal disguising itself as a transportation bill,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves said in a statement.

But while Republican lawmakers opposed Biden’s infrastructure plans for doing too much, progressive lawmakers are saying it’s not doing enough. On Wednesday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, said that progressive prefer a “single, ambitious” infrastructure package, instead of Biden’s two-part plan.

“Given the president’s fierce resolve in passing the overwhelmingly popular American Rescue Plan earlier this month, it makes little sense to narrow his previous ambition on infrastructure or compromise with the physical realities of climate change,” Jayapal said.

Biden reiterated in his Wednesday speech his hopes that Congress come together to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and strengthen the economy.

He said thinks all Republicans in the House or Senate believe infrastructure improvements are needed. “They know China and other countries are eating our lunch. So there’s no reason why it can’t be bipartisan again. The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.”

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The White House says Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package is the most ‘progressive piece of legislation in history.’ Top progressives agree.

joe biden bernie sanders
Joe Biden greets Sen. Bernie Sanders before the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.

  • President Joe Biden is touting his $1.9 trillion coronavirus package as a progressive bill.
  • Progressive lawmakers are also celebrating the American Rescue Plan and taking credit for it.
  • The bill would become Biden’s first major legislation and represents unity within Democrats.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is on track to become the first major legislation of his administration. He’s touting it as a progressive achievement – and many progressives are on board with the sentiment.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday described the massive bill aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout as “the most progressive piece of legislation in history.”

Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and a leading champion for many of the progressive policies included in the bill, expressed a similar viewpoint over the weekend. He called the stimulus “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” upon its passage in the Senate on Saturday.

Progressives, too, are taking credit for the bill. Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the stimulus a “truly progressive and bold package that delivers on its promise to put money directly in people’s pockets.”

“We take the win,” Jayapal told Politico’s Sarah Ferris on Capitol Hill on Monday. “We believe it’s our work that made it as progressive as it is.”

The legislation, which is due for a vote in the House this week, represents unity within the Democratic Party at the start of Biden’s presidency – a development that seemed unlikely a year ago.

Progressive voters weren’t firmly in Biden’s column. He is a centrist and they had set their hopes on more left-leaning candidates, including Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for president. After Biden clinched the Democratic nomination, he continued to pitch himself as a moderate who would unite the left and right, leaving progressives worried about whether they’d have a seat at the table with him in the White House.

However, since taking office, Biden has worked with progressives and the White House has promoted an agenda consistent with many of the left’s policy ideas.

“Progressives should be very proud of this bill,” a senior Democratic aide told Insider. “This is an absolutely terrific piece of legislation and we’re going to continue to work very closely with the Biden administration to make sure we have an economy and a government that works for all of us and not just the top 1%.”

Some of the measures included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package hailed by progressives are an expanded child tax credit, $1,400 direct payments, and housing and food assistance.

That said, progressives don’t view the legislation as perfect.

Warren called the bill “powerful” but emphasized that it is “just the start of what Congress can do for working families.”

Pramila Jayapal
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Originally, Biden had included a provision that would have boosted the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and had the backing of progressives. However, the Senate parliamentarian, who is responsible for setting the procedural rules of the chamber, ruled against its inclusion in the final bill.

Progressives had urged the White House to overrule the decision, but these calls went unheeded. Sanders then fought to add the minimum wage hike to the package through an amendment, but did not receive enough support from his Senate colleagues. Even eight Democrats voted no.

Some progressive Democrats in the House, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, criticized the changes in the Senate bill. Yet Biden on Saturday rejected the notion that progressives were upset. “They’re not frustrated,” Biden told reporters. “Bernie Sanders said this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen passed since he’s been here.”

Psaki on Monday said that Biden remains committed to increasing the federal minimum wage, and progressives plan to hold him to it. Still, she reiterated that the White House is currently focused on making the stimulus package become law, and many congressional progressives say the same.

“I am going to be an enthusiastic yes on this,” Jayapal told NBC News on Monday.

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Biden poised to sign final stimulus package with $1,400 checks within days

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden at the White House.

  • Biden appears to be on course to sign a massive $1.9 trillion stimulus bill within days.
  • House Democrats are set to vote on a final version of the bill late on Tuesday.
  • Biden said $1,400 stimulus checks would start going out once the bill is signed.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden is on course to sign a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan within days, marking his first major legislative achievement nearly two months into his administration.

The Senate approved the massive rescue package on Saturday after a marathon day of voting. Now the House is expected to vote on the bill in its final form late on Tuesday, after it makes a stop at the Rules Committee. Democrats are rushing to enact the bill ahead of a March 14 deadline for the end of enhanced unemployment benefits.

House Democrats hold a five-seat majority, the slimmest in decades for the lower chamber. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has vowed to approve the rescue bill quickly.

It would provide $1,400 stimulus payments for most taxpayers; $300 weekly federal jobless aid through early September; fund vaccine distribution and testing; an expanded child tax credit; and money for state and local governments.

However, the bill contains some notable differences from the one House Democrats cleared a week ago, which requires some finagling in the Rules Committee. The new legislation does not include a $15 minimum wage, after a Senate official ejected it last month, and it cuts federal unemployment benefits to $300 weekly instead of $400. The duration of unemployment benefits is actually longer than the House version of the bill, running through September 6, but shorter than an earlier Senate proposal to run through October 3.

Despite early concerns that these changes could prompt a revolt among progressives, they still appear to support the rescue package. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the final bill has “retained its core bold, progressive elements.”

“Importantly, despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” Jayapal said in a Saturday statement.

Jayapal also said in a tweet that she believed the stimulus serves as a “down-payment on the $3-to-$4.5 trillion in stimulus,” suggesting progressives will continue pressing for ambitious spending.

Biden said on Saturday that the federal government would start sending stimulus payments “this month” as he touted parts of the bill that are broadly popular with voters. He also said the legislation strongly resembles the initial one he proposed in early January.

“I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place,” Biden said on Saturday.

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Top Democrats introduce a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025, raising pay for 32 million Americans

minimum wage protest
A group of BLM demonstrators protest the Federal Reserve Bank about $15 minimum wage in NYC to solidarity nationwide in Lower Manhattan at the financial district in New York, United States on July 20, 2020

  • Top Democrats introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 on Tuesday, which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
  • House Labor Chair Robert Scott said the Act would gradually phase out subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities.
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he will use budget reconciliation to pass the minimum wage increase.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Democrats introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 on Tuesday, which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over the course of five years.

The federal minimum wage has not been raised for over a decade, and President Joe Biden proposed to raise it in his $2 trillion stimulus proposal. However, the provision was met with partisan criticism.

To address the issue, House Labor Chair Robert Scott joined incoming Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders, incoming Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, and Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy to introduce legislation that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

“Around the country, Americans across the political spectrum have repeatedly supported raising the minimum wage,” Scott said in a statement. “In November, more than 60 percent of voters in Florida voted to increase the state minimum wage. The Raise the Wage Act is a critical step toward lifting hardworking people out of poverty, addressing income inequality, and building back a better economy where everyone can succeed.”

In a press conference on Tuesday, Scott said that the Raise the Wage Act would work in three ways:

  • Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025;
  • Gradually phasing out various subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities;
  • Ensuring that the value of the minimum wage will not erode over time by tying it to inflation and future increases in the median wages.
Scheduled minimum wage increases under the Raise the Wage Act
Scheduled minimum wage increases under the Raise the Wage Act.

According to an analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, the Act would increase wages for nearly 32 million Americans, including nearly a third of all Black workers and a quarter of all Latino workers, and more than half of the people who would benefit are women. 

The Raise the Wage Act would also increase the pay for roughly six in 10 Americans whose total family income is below the poverty line. Insider previously reported that 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty as pandemic benefits have expired, so the Act intends to provide relief to those who have been suffering financially. 

Sanders said in the Tuesday press conference that he will use budget reconciliation to push for the minimum wage increase, a method he previously said he would use to pass the provision through Congress. He said for anyone who thinks budget reconciliation is “some kind of new or radical concept,” to remember that Republicans have used it before to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Let us be clear. And I don’t think there’s any debate about this. There isn’t anybody in America… who can survive on $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage,” Sanders said. “You can’t make it on nine bucks. You can’t make it on $12 an hour. But in the richest country in the history of the world, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty. Minimum wage must be a living wage, enabling people to live with dignity.”

 

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Rep. Pramila Jayapal revealed she contracted COVID-19 and says ‘Republicans who cruelly and selfishly refused to wear masks’ during the Capitol siege are to blame

UNITED STATES - MARCH 3: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., talks with reporters after a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Rep. Pramila Jayapal called for “serious fines to be immediately levied on every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol.”

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal announced that she tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering in place in a room with more than 100 people — some not wearing masks — for hours during the Capitol riots.
  • “Only hours after President Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic — creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack,” Jayapal said in a fiery statement announcing her positive test.
  • She is the second congresswoman to announce a positive test following the Capitol lockdown, which the Attending Physician of the United States Congress said on Sunday could have exposed many members of Congress to the coronavirus.
  • Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor starting her third term, also tested positive after sheltering during the riots.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal does not have time for the “selfish idiocy” of those not wearing masks in the US Capitol.

She shared this frustration in an announcement on Monday that she tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering in place during the Capitol riots with GOP members of Congress who she said refused to wear masks.

The Democrat from Washington called for “serious fines to be immediately levied on every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol.”

Jayapal is the second congresswoman to announce a positive COVID-19 test after sheltering in place during the Capitol Building insurrection. Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor from New Jersey, also shared on Monday that she tested positive after sheltering during the riots.

Last week Jayapal told New York Magazine’s The Cut that she was “quarantining now because I am convinced that where we ended up, in the secured room – where there were over 100 people and many were Republicans not wearing masks – was a superspreader event.”

On Sunday, the attending physician of the United States Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, warned that members of Congress could have been exposed to the coronavirus while sheltering in place during the more than four-hour siege.

“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” Jayapal said in her statement. “Only hours after President Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic – creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack.”

In December, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implemented new mask-wearing rules for the House floor. Members are required to wear a mask to be recognized to speak and must keep a mask on when at the mic.

However, mask-wearing, which health experts say is one of the most effective ways of stemming transmission of the novel coronavirus, has become a partisan issue with some in the GOP (including the president) declining to wear them.

COVID-19, however, does not obey the whims of politics; the deadly virus continues to spread.

As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains: “The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.”

Thus far more than 22 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and 376,000 have died.

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