House Republicans cancel Capitol dinner for new members amid backlash over COVID risks

House Republicans canceled a sit-down dinner for new members on Sunday night after Democrats were forced to do the same amid backlash from social media users who vilified the politicians for flouting COVID-19 rules. 

GOP leaders modified their plans less than an hour before the event was set to take place, offering carry-out meals instead of a seated soiree, a source who attended told CNN.  

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R – California) had defended the dinner on Saturday but said his team would revisit the plans. 

CNN correspondent Kristin Wilson shared photos of 45 tables with two seats each set up inside Statuary Hall, a storied chamber in the Capitol, on Saturday night. The outlet reported that the tables were still in place right before the dinner was due to start on Sunday.  

House Republicans canceled a sit-down dinner for new members on Sunday night after Democrats were forced to do the same amid backlash from social media users who vilified the politicians for flouting COVID-19 rules. Pictured: CNN correspondent Kristin Wilson shared photos of 45 tables with two seats each set up in Statuary Hall ahead of the Republican dinner

House Republicans canceled a sit-down dinner for new members on Sunday night after Democrats were forced to do the same amid backlash from social media users who vilified the politicians for flouting COVID-19 rules. Pictured: CNN correspondent Kristin Wilson shared photos of 45 tables with two seats each set up in Statuary Hall ahead of the Republican dinner

House Republicans canceled a sit-down dinner for new members on Sunday night after Democrats were forced to do the same amid backlash from social media users who vilified the politicians for flouting COVID-19 rules. Pictured: CNN correspondent Kristin Wilson shared photos of 45 tables with two seats each set up in Statuary Hall ahead of the Republican dinner

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (pictured) had defended the dinner on Saturday but said his team would revisit the plans

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (pictured) had defended the dinner on Saturday but said his team would revisit the plans

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (pictured) had defended the dinner on Saturday but said his team would revisit the plans

It appears that Republicans ditched the plan to avoid the same public outcry received by the Democrats before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled her party’s new member dinner on Friday night. 

McCarthy had signaled he would be going ahead with his dinner on Saturday, where emphasizing the safety measures that had been implemented in light of the pandemic. 

‘What we did beforehand, we had the medical doctor come in, we put a new vent system in there,’ McCarthy told Fox News. 

‘It’s a one-time dinner at the Statuary Hall, and we’ve taken all of the precautions, following the CDC and others of what you can and how you can meet together, and that’s what we’re trying to do, is to secure the safety of every individual.’ 

It appears that Republicans ditched the plan to avoid the same public outcry received by the Democrats before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled her party's new member dinner on Friday night

It appears that Republicans ditched the plan to avoid the same public outcry received by the Democrats before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled her party's new member dinner on Friday night

It appears that Republicans ditched the plan to avoid the same public outcry received by the Democrats before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled her party’s new member dinner on Friday night

Pelosi and her team made similar claims before amending their plans – telling reporters that the venue was ‘very spaced’ and that all attendees had approval from doctors.  

‘Our office strictly follows the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician, including for this dinner,’ Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hamill tweeted. 

‘To be a further model for the nation, this event has been modified to allow Members-elect to pick up their meals to go in a socially-distanced manner.’  

But hours later Hammill announced the change of plans, tweeting: ‘Members-elect are now picking up their boxed meals and departing the Capitol. There is no group dinner.’ 

It came after many prominent Democrat supporters voiced frustration with the party’s perceived hypocrisy on CDC guidelines.  

Chelsea Clinton tweeted: ‘Please cancel these in-person dinners, @SpeakerPelosi & @kevinomccarthy to keep everyone safe from #covid19 – yourselves, your new members, servers, the Capitol police and all of their families and contacts. And, to show public health leadership.’

‘Imagine telling families not to hold Thanksgiving (we shouldn’t) and then doing this. Come. On,’ said Nikole Hannah Jones, a New York Times Magazine reporter. 

MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes tweeted: ‘Cancel your precious dinner, you maniacs. my god.’ 

Staff are seen setting up tables at Statuary Hall ahead of the Democrats' dinner on Friday

Staff are seen setting up tables at Statuary Hall ahead of the Democrats' dinner on Friday

Staff are seen setting up tables at Statuary Hall ahead of the Democrats’ dinner on Friday

Pelosi canceled her party's welcome dinner hours before it was set to take place, opting instead for carry-out meals

Pelosi canceled her party's welcome dinner hours before it was set to take place, opting instead for carry-out meals

Pelosi canceled her party’s welcome dinner hours before it was set to take place, opting instead for carry-out meals

Some critics pointed out how Pelosi had hours earlier described the coronavirus pandemic as ‘an emergency of the highest magnitude’.

On Friday more than 172,000 cases were confirmed, and on Thursday more than 160,000. Before November, the country had never added 100,000 cases or more in a day.

By Sunday the total case count had risen to over 11 million, including more than 246,200 deaths.  

In the Midwest and West infection rates are drastically rising, and from Chicago to Washington DC to New York City, Americans are being advised to cancel their Thanksgiving plans and stay at home with as few people as possible.

At a news conference on Thursday Pelosi admonished Republicans for refusing to ‘listen to science’ and emphasized the need to heed CDC warnings.   

‘This is a red alert and all hands on deck, but it should have been a long time ago,’ she said of the latest virus spikes. 

‘The President and the Republicans in Congress have ignored by delay, distortion, denial.

‘Deaths have been caused. And what are they doing now? Continuing to ignore, in spite of these numbers that should be so compelling, that are an imperative for us to act upon this. 

‘Every kind of avoidance of taking responsibility has been witnessed. Every chance that we had for testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, separation, sanitation, that science tells us to do, they have ignored.’

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