Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., got into a heated exchange on Friday with an aide to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after the aide told the lawmaker to take off his mask as he was leaving the House floor.
“I had a mask on as I stepped off the Floor,” and the aide “yelled at me to take my mask off,” Swalwell tweeted after a reporter for the Hill tweeted about the confrontation.
“No one should be bullied for wearing a mask. So I told the bully what I thought of his order,” Swalwell tweeted
The incident was the second this week to involve Greene’s office. On Wednesday, Greene, a Georgia Republican, accosted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., as she was leaving the House chamber, shouting at her about her environmental proposals.
Congress is an institution deeply governed by hierarchies and tradition. Lawmakers shouting at each other is unusual and staff shouting at a member of Congress is even more outside the norm of decorum in the building.
Thursday’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that masks are no longer needed in most settings for people who are fully vaccinated is likely to fuel disputes about face coverings, as people who remain apprehensive will most likely continue to wear them in public. In announcing the new policy on Thursday, President Joe Biden asked the American public to be kind toward those who opt to continue wearing a mask.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to members on Friday reminding them that the mask rules remained in place until “all Members and Floor staff are fully vaccinated.”
The reporter who posted on Twitter about the Friday incident, Scott Wong, wrote that Greene’s spokesman Nick Dyer told Swalwell, “Biden says you can take off your mask.”
“Swalwell confronted Dyer, got in his face and according to Dyer, said: ‘You don’t tell me what to fucking do!'” Wong wrote on Twitter. The reporter said he wasn’t close to enough to Swalwell to hear what he said himself.
Swalwell wasn’t exactly apologetic afterward. “I regret I wasn’t more explicit,” Swalwell wrote on Twitter.
That sentiment was echoed by another Democratic congressman, Ruben Gallego of Arizona. “House Staff should never talk to any member in any disrespectful manner. This staffer is lucky he told that to Swalwell, he is way nicer than me,” Gallego tweeted.
Greene insisted to NBC News that Dyer had been polite.
“Today, Eric Swalwell walking in here, my staffer nicely says to him, ‘Congressman, you don’t have to wear your mask anymore, because it was what Biden said yesterday,’ he chases my staffer inside everybody saw it and gets in his face, curses at him, says you don’t tell me what to do,” Greene said. “The Democrats are the party of aggression and violence.”
Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed.