WASHINGTON — Like family members arguing at the Thanksgiving dinner table, lawmakers on Capitol Hill clashed last week.
Ousted President Kevin McCarthy was accused of elbowing a political foe, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., who called it a “free kick to the kidneys.” Oklahoma Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin, an MMA fighter, threatened a fight with Teamsters union President Sean O’Brien during a Senate hearing.
And Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., mocked Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who wore a blue suit, as “smurf” after the diminutive Florida Democrat raised questions during a ‘a hearing on the business dealings of Comer and his brother.
“I think they should bring back caning,” joked Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., referring to the 1856 beating of Sen. Charles Sumner that left him bloodied on the Senate floor.
Apart from the rooms of Congress seeming to be devoted to “Fight Club,» Republicans also said they would try, for a second time, to expel one of their own scandal-laden representatives, George Santos, R-N.Y., after an ethics report found, between other things, that the freshman fabulist had used campaign funds for personal expenses, including designer store purchases, Botox treatments and OnlyFans payments.
Congress’ approval rating among Americans is 13 percent, up from 20 percent in June, according to Gallup — but that dismal number could fall further after Congress’s “hell week.”
“There are stupid days on Capitol Hill and there are stupider days on Capitol Hill, and this is one of the stupidest days I’ve seen in a long time,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C., the same day. the McCarthy, Mullen and Moskowitz incidents – just weeks after presiding over repeated, failed attempts to elect a president last month.
A 10-week marathon session
The series of clashes capped a chaotic fall session of Congress that included a confrontation over spending that nearly led to a government shutdown, the first ouster of a president in American history and a three-year civil war. weeks between the Republican Party and the Republican Party to replace McCarthy who raised and destroyed a party. a host of ambitious leaders who wanted the top job. The man who won the president’s gavel, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, avoided another shutdown this week but needed dozens of Democratic votes to do so.
Furious that Congress was pushing the funding fight into the New Year, conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus quickly blocked individual GOP spending bills, forcing Johnson to send lawmakers home a day early for the Thanksgiving holiday without any Republican victory.
“One thing! I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing: one! – that I can continue my campaign and say we did it,” thundered Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, on the House floor, a tirade from a conservative that went viral. “Anyone sitting in the complex, if you want to come and explain to me one important, significant, significant thing, the Republican majority has done it.”
Many attributed the widespread frustration and physical altercations to the fact that the House had been in session for 10 straight weeks since the summer recess, marked by long nights away from loved ones and without delivering anything concrete on the legislative front. Some lawmakers have warned that without the Thanksgiving holiday, someone could end up dying.
“I can understand why the system provides breaks for people to go away,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., as he descended the still-bloodstained staircase where a reporter shot the Representative William Taulbee in 1890. “Because I think if we were here one more week one Republican member might kill another.
Lawmakers head out
House members are leaving Congress in droves, ranging from veterans to new lawmakers. More than a dozen of them announced they would run for senior or other positions and not return. Others, like Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, retire after decades of service and rise to the pinnacle of power.
But some lawmakers say infighting among Republicans, the unpredictable schedule and political paralysis helped prompt them to call it a day. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., who earned influential positions on the Steering and Energy and Commerce committees during her five years in Congress, stunned colleagues when she announced her retirement plans amid the three-week feud between the speakers.
She wonders if this job is worth being away from her family right now.
“I miss my family. Everyone says it, but I really mean it. I miss my husband. I miss my 94-year-old mother, my five grandchildren, my children. Usually we are here three weeks a month, then the schedule changes. So it’s like you’re trying to plan something with your family, and then you have to change it because you’re not there,” Lesko said.
“The other problem is that it’s totally dysfunctional. We can’t do anything here. It’s very frustrating,” she added.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said he has no regrets about his decision not to run for reelection, citing his own party’s frustrations for trying to impeach President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, censure of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and denial of the 2020 election.
“Unconstitutional impeachments and censures that make no sense…” Buck said, unleashing his reproaches. “The main factor was that we cannot admit that the Republicans lost the election in 2020, which is crazy! And we can’t work on meaningful legislation, because politically it hurts to say that we have to reform Medicare, that we have to reform Social Security, that we have to control spending.”
Republican Rep. Dan Bishop, who is leaving the House to run for North Carolina attorney general, attributed the Republican Party’s discord to what he called “insufficient unity of purpose” and a party “in transition “. Bishop, who has often clashed with leaders during his four years in Congress, said he might be better suited to serving in an executive role in Raleigh rather than being one of the 435 members of the Bedroom.
“French Hill of Arkansas said I had a leadership personality — I think that was a backhanded compliment,” Bishop said with a smile. “But it’s true. I’m eager to do the same things and I’m an agent of change, I think that’s fair to say, and we have to move forward.
Ever the optimist, Rep. Derek Kilmer, Democrat of Washington, is not running for reelection but is not as disappointed with Capitol Hill, despite his weekly flights across the country. He believes he made a difference during his decade in Congress, including as chairman of the House Modernization or “Fix Congress Committee,” which pushed for improvements on issues such as House technology, diversity and staff retention.
But Kilmer, 49, wrote in a lengthy and heartfelt statement that this work “has come at a considerable cost to my family.” I missed every theater performance and musical recital. Every family dinner I wasn’t there for. The distance I felt from my family for months after the events of January 6. I am aware that I have not always done what I wanted and I hope that they will forgive me.
Later, just outside the House, he told reporters about an amusing exchange he had with House Chaplain Margaret G. Kibben during last month’s long Speakers’ Battle.
“Pray harder,” Kilmer told him jokingly.
“Imagine how things would be if I was not I pray so hard,” Kibben replied.
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