Downstate lawmaker Rep. Darren Bailey was booted from the Illinois House on Wednesday — with the help of some of his fellow Republicans — after refusing to wear a face covering during the first of three House sessions.
Bailey’s defiance was no surprise. The southern Illinois Republican had publicly said he would not cover his face. The lawmaker from Xenia is also suing Gov. J.B. Pritzker over his executive order that mandated a stay-at-home extension until May 29.
The Democratic governor offered his own opinion about Bailey on Wednesday, calling his decision to go maskless “a callous disregard for life, callous disregard for people’s health.”
Bailey’s ouster provided some drama in a day marked more by confrontations than legislation.
Just hours earlier, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin traded words with a protester outside the special session at the Bank of Springfield Center, taking her to task for a sign comparing Pritzker to Adolf Hitler.
The Western Springs Republican told the demonstrator that her “J.B. Hitler must go” sign was offensive and didn’t help her cause.
“They should be offended by our governor,” said Brittany Emel, the protester who Durkin confronted.
Inside the Bank of Springfield convention center, the House vote to remove Bailey after he refused to comply with newly-adopted House rules that required members, staff and visitors to wear a face-covering over their nose and mouth, if they are medically able to do so.
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, made a motion to remove Bailey from the House proceedings after he asked Bailey to comply, and he responded “I will not.”
During debate on the motion, state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, urged fellow Republicans to comply with the rules, but argued “there’s more important things that we could be doing with our time right now.”
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, warned the 109 House members in attendance that there are no assurances that they won’t contract COVID-19 during their trip to Springfield.
“None of us can guarantee that we’re COVID negative over the course of the next three days,” Zalewski said, arguing the masks were to protect others. “So if you’re not going to do it for yourself, if you’re not going to do it for your colleagues, respectfully, as a matter of course, please do it for your staff and those that are working very hard to conduct the people’s business.”
That comment came after state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, said he had no “fear” of any other members “and I don’t think any of us should have any fear.” Caulkin said all members had tested negative for COVID-19, a requirement set forth by the legislative leaders.
The House voted 81-27 in favor of Bailey’s removal.
“Doormen, please remove Rep. Bailey,” state Rep. Jay Hoffman, who was in the speaker’s chair, said after the motion passed. Bailey walked out of the convention center with a smile and a briefcase.
“It’s time to put an end to this stuff and say enough is enough,” Bailey told reporters after his ouster.
Bailey said he also did not submit to a COVID-19 test, another House requirement. He said if he does return on Thursday, he will wear a mask: “I take life step-by-step, moment-by-moment.”
Asked about Bailey’s removal during his COVID-19 briefing, Pritzker reiterated that the face coverings are “to protect others.”
“So clearly the representative has no interest in protecting others,” the Chicago Democrat said.
The new House rules first proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan also limited the number of people inside the convention center during session and required all lawmakers and staffers on the House floor to maintain social distancing, submit to a temperature check and pass through a metal detector before entering.
As lawmakers returned to Springfield to square away a budget in the waning days of an end of month deadline — and amid a pandemic — angry protesters gathered around the Bank of Springfield Center and marched on the Illinois Statehouse – where the state Senate was meeting — directing much of their anger at Pritzker.
Some held “Reopen Illinois” posters and chanted “Open Illinois.”
While some carried signs likening the Jewish governor to Hitler, others sought to distance themselves from such tactics.
Andrew Davidson, an engineer who came from Rockford to protest Pritzker’s order, said he does not understand why the debate has become political.
“I think he’s well-intentioned. I think he’s trying to save lives,” Davidson said of Pritzker. “I’m not convinced that’s the best way.”
Timothy Hugo, a protester who splits his time between Bakersfield, California, said he no longer supports Pritzker.
“I actually voted for Gov. Pritzker, unbeknownst to me that he would become a tyrant,” Hugo said. “Now since I’m so sickened out on it, I am totally going Republican — totally.”