A federal judge has issued an important ruling in a lawsuit brought against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Writes Jon Dougherty
A federal judge has issued an important ruling in a lawsuit brought against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and two other Republican lawmakers who were fined for refusing to wear masks while in the House chamber.
As reported by Newsweek, the suit was enjoined by Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, all of whom alleged that the mask policy violated their rights to free speech and that the $500 fines they were given violated the 27th Amendment of the Constitution.
But Senior Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the suit after noting in a 47-page ruling that the rule did not violate any constitutional provisions.
The 27th Amendment states simply: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” The lawmakers were arguing that Pelosi had no authority to essentially change their compensation through the imposition of fines, but Walton disagreed.
Massie, Greene and Norman had attended a vote in the House without wearing masks in May 2021, violating a policy that had been put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were each fined $500.
They sued Pelosi, who is a Democrat, in July 2021. They also sued the sergeant-at-arms and chief administrative officer of the House.
The Republican lawmakers argued that they wanted to “protest against the double standard being enforced” and express “the well-founded beliefs” that mask-wearing was not based on scientific proof and that wearing masks was “not necessary for the vaccinated or naturally immune.”
They also argued that imposing those fines on them was prohibited by the 27th Amendment. However, Judge Walton rejected their arguments on Wednesday.
Walton noted in his ruling that the lawmakers’ compensation “is not varied by the deduction of disciplinary fines from the plaintiffs’ paychecks” in a lengthy dissertation in which he described the meaning of “compensation” for members of Congress.
He went on to write that “the deduction of fines from the plaintiffs’ paychecks pursuant to House Resolution 38 does not violate the Twenty-Seventh Amendment, and, therefore, the Twenty-Seventh Amendment does not limit the House’s authority to adopt the mask policy or House Resolution 38.”
House Resolution 38, Newsweek explained, was passed to enforce Pelosi’s mask mandate.
In addition, the judge rejected the GOP lawmakers’ arguments that the policy was a violation of their First Amendment free speech rights by punishing them for “contrary viewpoint-based symbolic speech.”
He did, however, accept the defendants’ argument that the mask policy and House Resolution 38 were “unrelated to the suppression of expression.”
In reference to the lawmakers’ claims that “recent scientific findings that the use of face coverings has no appreciable effect on slowing or halting the spread of COVID-19,” Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that “the consensus within the scientific community is clear that masks – and, in particular, well-fitting, protective masks – are effective in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
Massie pushed back in a statement to Newsweek on Thursday: “The judge came to the tortured conclusion that collecting mask fines by direct reduction of members’ salaries did not constitute reductions in salary, which is otherwise prohibited by the Constitution.”
He then indicted that the trio planned to appeal the ruling.
“We are glad to have a ruling that gets us one step closer to the Supreme Court, where we believe a plain reading of the Constitution will clearly show Speaker Pelosi has violated the Constitution,” Massie said.
As for Greene, a late December survey found that she is “cruising to re-election” with an enormous lead ahead of the GOP primary.
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