I am wondering if a House member is barred from entering the House side of the U.S. Capitol Building for him/her choosing not wearing a face mask, while that House member is barred from the House side of the Capitol, does that House member's constituents lose their representation within Congress during that banishment period?

If so, would this violate the constitutional rights of that House member's constituents to always be represented in Congress?

  • 7
    If the member has chosen to perform the representation by taking such a stand against mask mandates (and therefore choosing an action that means they temporarily won't be able to participate in Congress), then it's difficult to argue that their constituents have been deprived of representation in an unconstitutional manner. There is no constitutional requirement that representatives must be hard-working and act intelligently.
    – amon
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 20:34
  • 2
    @amon Democracy in a nutshell. Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 21:15

3 Answers 3


There is no current authorization to bar any member of the house from the floor, so the answer depends heavily on what actually happens. Since remote voting was approved, no constituency would be disenfranchised. But we could imagine the house adopting a rule barring remote participation, and also barring entry to the House floor for any person not wearing a mask. The House is constitutionally allowed to set its own rules. The House did bar Adam Clayton Powell from being seated, and he did indeed sue. SCOTUS, most importantly, asserted that this is a justiciable question, and most importantly "In judging the qualifications of its members under Art. I, § 5, Congress is limited to the standing qualifications expressly prescribed by the Constitution". This could be overcome by expelling the member who refuses to wear a mask (Congress has the power to expel, but not exclude).

There would be a significant conflict of rights in this case. Residents of the district has a right to representation (equal protection clause), but Congress has the right to expel members. But Congress has expelled 5 members, and most recently, Ohio's 17th district was without representation in the US House for a half a year after Traficant was expelled. That did not prevent the House from exercising its right to expel a member.


Either house of Congress can certainly remove a member from the floor for disorderly conduct. If, say, a member attempted to attend in the nude, the Sargent-at-arms could and probably would remove the member and prevent the member from returning until the member complied with the rules. Ar one time, I believe, Congress required that members wear a necktie while on the floor, and this rule would similarly have been enforced. (I do not know if that rules is still in effect.) A rule requiring wearing a mask, if one were passed, would similarly be enforceable. As a member could resume full participation at any time by complying with the rules, there would be no impact on the rights of citizens to be represented.

An elected member of congress could choose never or only rarely to attend sessions. The only remedy would be to elect someone else when the member's term expires, or for a 2/3rds vote to expel the member, although the Sargent-at-arms does have the authority, when so instructed by the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate, to arrest absent members and bring them before the bar of the house, a power which is used to obtain a quorum, as mentioned in Article I Section 5 of the US Constitution, which reads:

... a Majority of each [House] shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

All this is speculative until and unless a House of Congress adopts a rule mandating the wearing of masks in its chamber, or in the Capitol.

  • 2
    There was a recent dress code scuffle that caused the dress code to be modernized: reuters.com/article/us-usa-congress-dresscode-idUSKBN19Y2BV
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 12:14
  • 2
    I wish that any downvoters would leave a comment indicting what they think is wrong with this answer. In the absence of a comment, I cannot improve the answer, others cannot use the reasons to write better answers, and readers have no idea why someone objects to the answer. Such a downvote seems pointless. Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 21:23
  • 1
    When someone declines to tell me why they downvoted, I feel free to make up reasons for them. Maybe someone just got dumped by a ‘David’ and it makes them feel better to click that down arrow. Or maybe it is just an accident and it got clicked while they were scrolling on their mobile. Or they can’t stand the word “necktie”. Pick a reason that entertains you; sometimes you have to make your own fun.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 22:56
  • 1
    @ColleenV I am actually hoping to get those with rational reasons to mention them, so that I can respond to them, or improve my answer. I am also hoping to make it socially unacceptable here to place DVs when the problems have not been described. I proposed a rule change for this purpose on SE.Meta, but was quickly shot down. Perhaps in time such a rule can gain traction. Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 23:00
  • 1
    My experience is that if there is a reason someone can articulate and you don’t have a reputation for arguing with people, someone will tell you if there’s something ’wrong’. If it’s a stray downvote and unexplained, there’s usually nothing to be done about it.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 23:05

would this violate the constitutional rights of that House member's constituents to always be represented in Congress?

There is no such right. It isn't uncommon for members of a House district to be unrepresented due to a vacancy for a prolonged period of time until a new election to fill a vacancy can be held.

  • 1
    I understand that there have been many times in the past when a House or Senate member had to resign for a particular reason or that person unexpectedly died which created a vacancy. Yet, my question is more about a situation in which an active House member is physically restrained from participating in Congress, such as being physically blocked from entering into the Capitol Building by a security guard. I just feel that there is something unconstitutional about that, but exactly how it's unconstitutional, that I can't answer.
    – user57467
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 11:28
  • 1
    @user57467 Your feels are wrong. It is not unconstitutional. Indeed, it is expressly authorized by Article I of the Constitution which gives each house of Congress the authority to regulated its members and its affairs. There is no individual constitutional right to congressional representation.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 20:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .