The House modified its format on Friday evening after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended holding a large dinner for incoming members of Congress — a move that swiftly triggered a wave of criticism as Democrats begin to urge Americans to cancel their traditional Thanksgiving plans.
“Our office strictly follows the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician, including for this dinner,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, announced Friday night.
“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,” he added:
Our office strictly follows the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician, including for this dinner. 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. https://t.co/s2pSyUOCbm
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) November 13, 2020
Hammill later provided another update, announcing “no group dinner.”
“Members-elect are now picking up their boxed meals and departing the Capitol,” he said. “There is no group dinner. Members-elect are in DC already for orientation”:
Members-elect are now picking up their boxed meals and departing the Capitol. There is no group dinner. Members-elect are in DC already for orientation. https://t.co/g5XNnA3ky0
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) November 14, 2020
The change follows Pelosi’s defense of holding such a dinner as Americans are warned to limit their own plans as the holiday season approaches.
“House Dem and GOP leaders are holding respective dinners for new members,” NBC News correspondent Leigh Ann Caldwell reported Friday evening, providing a photo of several tables:
House Dem and GOP leaders are holding respective dinners for new members.
— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) November 13, 2020
Pelosi defended the decision to hold the dinner, explaining that the Capitol physician signed off on the event.
“It’s very spaced,” the speaker said.
However, the decision drew immense backlash, given the propensity of Democrats, particularly, to push severe coronavirus rules and restrictions on the American people. This week alone, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced restrictions, forcing bars, restaurants, and gyms to close at 10 p.m. His order also limits gatherings at private residences to ten people. Similarly, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) announced a stay-at-home advisory and has explicitly urged Chicagoans to “cancel traditional Thanksgiving plans.”
Critics still expressed disgust despite the last-minute change in plans.
“Amazing that it takes a Twitter shaming to make you do the right thing. In a pandemic. Honestly,” one wrote.
“Really worrying that you were going to do this in the first place,” another remarked. “Not for your safety but your political competence.”
“Canceling this dinner was the right thing to do; however it should never have been planned in the first place,” another said, adding that Pelosi “owes us all an apology, especially for everyone who turned out during a pandemic to vote the Democrats in to power.”