“[If] you want to send me or anyone else outside the doors today, I understand. Go right ahead,” Bailey said when asked to comply, NPR Illinois reported. “But know this: If you do that, you’re silencing millions of voices of people who have had enough.”
His colleagues on both sides of the aisle didn’t appear too worried. They kicked him out of the legislature by an 81-27 vote.
“Doormen, please remove Rep. Bailey,” said state Rep. Jay Hoffman (D), before a group of men in masks escorted the maskless Bailey from the arena, the state’s temporary legislative home to allow for more social distancing.
Bailey, who has sued Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) over his stay-at-home executive order, is among a number of Republican lawmakers nationwide who have joined their constituents in acts of defiance, fueling a political power struggle that has sometimes overshadowed the public health crisis. Masks have become part of those partisan battles, as some Republicans, most visibly President Trump, have refused to wear them in public.
To Bailey, the confrontation was a stand against being told by the government how to live his life, he told The Washington Post late Wednesday. But to his colleagues, it was a less than amusing bit of political theatrics while they have more pressing matters on their hands. Some Republicans joined Democrats in rebuking him.
“I don’t think the people that sent us here to represent them today intended for us to focus our time on a mask showdown of whether you’re wearing it or you’re not,” said state Rep. Dan Brady (R), according to NPR Illinois.
The Illinois House rules allow a lawmaker who is removed to return should he or she decide to don the face mask.
Pritzker had harsh words for Bailey at Wednesday’s press briefing.
“The representative has shown a callous disregard for life, callous disregard for people’s health,” Pritzker said. “You just heard a doctor tell you why to wear a mask in the first place. It’s to protect others. So clearly, the representative has no interest in protecting others.”
On Wednesday, Bailey told The Post that he believed the mask rule, which had been earlier announced by Democratic House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, was “not about health” but was instead “just another Democrat bullying tactic.” He said he would wear one if he were concerned for his health, but he isn’t, and doesn’t like being told that he must.
“This whole thing that it’s concern for other people? I don’t buy that at all,” he said.
The nation’s leading public health experts have stressed that the purpose of wearing face masks is largely to protect other people from contracting the virus, which can spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks and releases droplets. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said masks can’t offer 100 percent protection, but can help stop the spread to some degree, especially in places such as grocery stores where you may come within six feet of other people.
A few other Republican lawmakers had previously bristled at the idea that they would be required to wear a face mask during the special session, NBC Chicago reported, but ultimately complied on Wednesday.
“We cannot ignore nor compromise the health and safety of every member of the General Assembly, their family members, every one of our staffers who works tirelessly for us,” Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said on the floor, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Bailey had previously spoken passionately about fighting for his unemployed constituents in an interview with The Post last month, calling the economic strife the “second pandemic.” Asked Wednesday how he will represent them if he can’t participate in the legislature without a mask, he said, “I don’t know. That’s something where I’ll have to decide whether I go back tomorrow and wear a mask or not.”