FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky Fourth District Congressman Thomas Massie and two of his Republican House colleagues are suing Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the chamber’s mask mandate, which was instituted due to COVID-19.
Massie, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and South Carolina’s Ralph Norman filed the suit against Pelosi to challenge what they term her imposition of unconstitutional fines against them.
The $500 fines were levied after Massie, Greene and Norman declined to wear a mask on the floor of the House of Representatives as an expression of symbolic speech that is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. They say Speaker Pelosi violated the plain language of the 27th Amendment to the Constitution when she sought to change members’ salaries as punishment for not wearing a mask on the very same day Speaker herself chose not to wear a mask.
"We are fighting this fight because if they can get away with this in Congress, they’ll do the same things to our kids when they go back to school, they’ll do the same things to hard-working Americans in their workplaces and they’ll do the same things to our soldiers," Massie stated. “We are standing up to Pelosi for the American people who are tired of mask mandates, vaccine coercion and violations of basic constitutional rights.”
The suit has been filed at U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The named defendants are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), William J. Walker in his official capacity as sergeant of arms of the U.S. House of Representatives and Catherine Szpindor in her official capacity as chief administrative officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.
It contains four claims:
--Imposing fines on the plaintiffs and then collecting them through salary reductions, pursuant to H. Res. 8 and/or H. Res. 38, constitutes a clear violation of the 27th Amendment.
--That Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution only permits Congress to punish disorderly behavior, and the plaintiffs' decisions to proceed to the House floor without masks did not disrupt the proceedings.
--Compensation for members of Congress must be set by "law" and the mask rules in question are not a "law" because they have not complied with the Constitution's Article 1 requirements, including passage by both Houses of Congress and presentation to the president.
--Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights were violated by the House Speaker because her mask rule serves as an example of unconstitutional compelled speech; and that the mask rule is being enforced in a partisan and viewpoint discriminatory manner in order to prohibit constitutionally protected symbolic speech of members who are not in the majority.
The three are asking a judge to issue a declaratory judgment that the fines imposed or threatened to be imposed against them are unconstitutional. They also seek an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the fines against them and the restoration of any funds that may have already been deducted from their salaries for having engaged in constitutionally protected symbolic speech.