More than 120 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were reportedly outraged after receiving taxpayer-funded KN95 masks that turned out to be from China.
It all started after Dr. Brian Monahan, attending physician of the Congress, mandated the use of N95 or KN95 masks in Capitol buildings accessed by House members earlier this month, according to Fox News.
Monahan’s office then distributed KN95 masks, which, to the surprise of Republican representatives, were printed with “Made in China” in bold, block letters. The masks also came in packages that included a sheet of paper stamped with a red star.
“Speaker Pelosi sent out N-95 [sic] masks to every House office. Unfortunately, I can’t read the instructions,” Rep. Bryan Steil, who represents Wisconsin’s 1st District, wrote on Twitter.
As a result, more than 120 Republican House members — led by Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13) — signed a letter demanding answers from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). They questioned why the masks had to come from China when American alternatives are available in the first place.
“As the highest-ranking official within the Legislative Branch, you have direct influence over, and responsibility for, congressional operations including the institution’s internal response to COVID-19,” the group wrote. “Under your tenure, you have closed the Capitol to the American people, implemented COVID-19 protocols in the House that conflict with the Senate, and now, you have handed out masks from China when American alternatives are available.”
The lawmakers are especially outraged as they continue to blame China for its handling of COVID-19. They argued that if masks are to be required, officials should “at least respect the institution and the taxpayers enough not to line the pockets of our adversary whose actions led to the current pandemic.”
Rep. Troy Balderson, who represents Ohio’s 12th District, is among those who exposed the masks in a video posted on Twitter. “I’m instead urging 100% ‘Made in America’ masks,” he said.
In response, a spokesperson for Pelosi reportedly told Fox News that “no House entity was involved in this purchase.” It remains unclear how the masks were procured.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate are hoping to sanction Chinese officials who block inquiries into COVID-19’s origins. The lab leak theory, which was championed by former President Donald Trump, remains a legitimate concern after the U.S. intelligence community failed to determine the pandemic’s exact origins.