The Illinois House devolved into a mass of political theater yesterday, as both political parties fought over House rules surrounding masks being worn (or not) by its members.
9th District Democrat Representative Lakeisa Collins of Chicago raised a motion to have 10 House Republican members to be removed from the House Floor yesterday for refusing to wear masks. It’s the second time this week that Collins has brought the motion. It was originally raised on Wednesday but was withdrawn. Republicans on the House floor allegedly caught pictures of House Democrats in defiance of the mask order on Wednesday prior to withdrawal of the motion.
107th District Representative Blaine Wilhour of Effingham asked Collins to yield to the floor for discussion and questioning prior to the vote being taken yesterday. Collins refused. Wilhour responded by calling it “weak.” In a vote of 66-39, the House voted to remove Wilhour along with Republican Representatives Joe Sosnowski, Toni McCombie, Dan Caulkins, Brad Halbrook, Adam Niemerg, David Welter, David Friess, Chris Miller, and Andrew Chesney from the chamber.
Republican House Leader Jim Durkin and State Representative Mark Batinick of Plainfield found the vote to remove members a bit telling, as they both pointed out the General Assembly had refused to act on any of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders over the last two years during a short debate about the GOP members’ removal.
Halbrook, Caulkins, Wilhour, Niemerg, and Miller later issued the following statement in a press release about their expulsion: “For the third day in a row, we refused to comply with the House mask mandate because of our commitment to highlight the unnecessary school mask mandate and because we are tired of rules and policies that don’t make any sense. This time the Democrat majority followed through with their threat to remove us from the House floor and we were forced to vote on bills remotely instead of in person on the House floor.
“At one point House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch stated that there were more important things to do than spend time on the House floor debating masks. His statement illustrates how out of touch the Democrat majority is when it comes to the frustration of parents across the state of Illinois. These parents are tired of the cruelty brought on their children with these senseless mask mandates at schools. They are tired and frustrated and they want someone to listen to them. What can be more important than the concerns of parents about what is happening to their children?
“Our message to Illinois parents is simple. We are listening to you. We stand with you, and we support you. The Democrats are feeling the heat because the public has had enough of the two years of the mandates and the disregard for their concerns. We must be resolved now more than ever to return Illinois to normalcy. We are going to keep fighting for your rights as parents to make healthcare decisions for your kids and we hope you will keep fighting too.”
McCombie refused to leave the chamber and was eventually allowed to stay for the remainder of the evening where the House voted to approve new Legislative Inspector General Judge Michael McCluskey. McCombie did not record a vote on the bill. McCombie later said her key was removed and she wasn’t allowed to vote.
House Speaker Chris Welch accused Republicans of slowing down the legislative process at the end of the McCluskey debate: “Let’s slow everything down, like we saw here today. And yesterday. When we know it’s committee deadline week. And we’re here on the floor arguing about House rules that have been in place for two years. Arguing about something as simple as putting on a mask to protect the health and well-being of everyone in this chamber. Why are we arguing about masks today? Slow everything down to bring this place to a halt.” Welch said the argument would stop in the coming days of session.
Later in the day, attorney Thomas DeVore, who has a temporary restraining order against the governor’s mask mandates in schools, filed suit against House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch in Bond County Circuit Court. The lawsuit, DeVore told the Center Square, is on behalf of his state Rep. Blaine Whilhour of Beecher City, and himself as an individual.
According to Capitol Fax, the House adjourned this morning after a brief session until Tuesday before taking any votes. Three of the of the ejected members from yesterday: Freiss, Wilhour, and Sosnowski were given excused absences.