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Illinois House Democrats vote to remove unmasked Republicans from state chamber


By Hannah Sarisohn and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Illinois Democratic state lawmakers voted Thursday to remove nine Republicans from the state House after they refused to comply with the chamber’s mask mandate.

The motion to remove the lawmakers — which passed 66-39 — followed an emotional appeal by Democratic state Rep. Lakesia Collins, who pleaded with the GOP lawmakers to “do your job and comply with the rules of this House. If not, go remote. Simple.”

“Every minute we waste talking to you all while you are over there whining about wearing a mask, those people are still suffering and need your help,” she said of Illinois residents.

Collins’ speech touched off a fiery debate in the chamber, with GOP Rep. Andrew Chesney — one of the lawmakers removed for not wearing a mask — charging that Democrats were only interested in political theater and were “not fighting for anybody.”

The tense episode echoed frustrations of Democrats in Congress as Republicans continue to defy the stepped-up health protocols in the US Capitol. GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, for example, has accrued at least $88,000 in fines — or roughly half her congressional salary — for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor.

While new cases and hospitalizations are dropping, more than 2,000 Americans are still dying every day from Covid-19. And the US is averaging 136,190 new Covid-19 cases a day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state — which is seeing a fast decline in hospitalizations — is planning to lift its statewide indoor mask requirement on February 28.

“I want to be clear: Many local jurisdictions, businesses and organizations have their own mask requirements and other mitigations that must be respected,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement this month. “Throughout this pandemic, we’ve deployed the tools available to us as needed. Our approach has saved lives and kept our economy open and growing.”

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