Three House Republicans who had their pay docked for not complying with a pandemic-era mask requirement on the chamber floor have taken their legal fight to the Supreme Court, urging the justices to hear their case after losing in a lower court.
Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) contend their $500 pay deductions violated the Constitution’s 27th Amendment, which prohibits salary adjustments for members of Congress from taking effect until after the next election.
But lower courts dismissed the trio’s lawsuit, filed against then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and two House officers.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the defendants were all protected by the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, which provides a shield against lawsuits and questioning for things lawmakers say and do as part of their legislative work.
“The D.C. Circuit’s opinion ultimately places no limits on Speech or Debate Immunity,” the Republican lawmakers’ attorneys wrote in their petition to the Supreme Court. “To let the D.C. Circuit’s opinion stand would be to render the Twenty-Seventh Amendment non-justiciable in violation of this Court and the D.C. Circuit’s own precedents and to open the floodgates to unfathomable discipline.”
“The House Rules, under this Doctrine, could impose physical punishment, flogging, or even more medieval forms of punishment, upon members and, under the D.C. Circuit’s precedent, no judicial remedy would be available, the Eighth Amendment notwithstanding,” the petition continued.
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House Democrats first established the mask mandate in summer 2020 and later implemented fines for violations. Members were fined $500 for the first mask offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.
Massie, Greene and Norman — among the handful of Republicans who were fined for flouting the rule — acknowledged violating the mandate in their petition, which was docketed Monday. The trio are asking the justices to take up their appeal to reverse the immunity ruling and proceed to weigh in on whether their pay deductions were constitutional.
“One of the few provisions of the Constitution with no interpretation from this Court is the Twenty-Seventh Amendment,” their attorneys wrote. “The practical nature of this anti-corruption Amendment renders the occurrence of a circuit split on the matter impossible. But this measure, designed to ensure the independence of members of Congress, the people’s legislative body, must have effect.”
Pelosi and the two other defendants, who served as the House’s sergeant of arms and chief administrative officer at the time, are due to respond to the petition by Dec. 27.