The biggest question on Capitol Hill this week is whether the meanest, toughest people in the country come from Oklahoma or Tennessee?
Maybe you are dreaming.
“I’m an Oklahoma guy first,” Sen. Markwayne Mullen, R-Oklahoma, a former mixed martial arts fighter, said on Fox News Radio.
Mullen rose from his seat at the podium during a Senate hearing to challenge Teamsters President Sean O’Brien to a fist fight. Mullen even took off his wedding ring. That suggests he was serious about throwing haymakers with O’Brien.
A traveler’s guide to why tensions are now high on Capitol Hill
Mullen’s staff told Fox that as a former professional fighter, the senator knows that “if he hit something with a ring, his hand would probably swell up.”
Mullen stared at O’Brien, towering over the witness table from the podium where the senators sat.
“You can’t talk like that in Oklahoma unless you’re willing to stand up and support it,” O’Brien’s Mullen said. “He shot his mouth at the wrong person.”
Do not Mess With Oklahoma?
Texas is not happy.
Tennessee Republican Rep. Tim Burchett said that former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, intentionally elbowed him in the kidneys this week. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisalis recorded the exchange while interviewing Burchett.
“Why did you elbow me in the back, Kevin?” Burchett shouted at McCarthy, before he chased the Speaker of the House and his US Capitol Police security team down the corridor of Congress. “Hey Kevin, do you have any guts?”
Burchett was one of eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy as Speaker of the House of Representatives last month.
Burchett shouted at the former Speaker: “What kind of chicken move is this? You’re pathetic, man.” “You’re an idiot. You are.” Need Security, Kevin.”
I’ve heard Mullen see how Okies settle things mano-a-mano. But how do masters handle business in a voluntary state?
Republicans are talking with Democrats to gauge where votes could lie to pass the spending bill and avoid a shutdown
“It’s a little different with the way people interact in Tennessee than they do in California,” Burchett declared. “In Tennessee, if you have a problem with someone, you confront them head-on. I think in Southern California, where (McCarthy’s from), you can give someone a cheap shot from behind.”
“Know your enemy,” Sun Tzu suggested in his book The Art of War.
McCarthy is from Bakersfield, which is not Southern California. It is part of the Central Valley.
The former Speaker of Parliament was far from remorseful. He denied lowering the boom on Burchett.
“I didn’t punch anyone,” McCarthy said. “If I hit someone, they’ll know I hit them.”
Which suggests that McCarthy he have I thought about hitting someone
Can you blame the former Speaker of the House after lawmakers like Burchett voted for him?
In the midst of the hubbub, lawmakers appeared to have violated the law first rule.
Oh. Come here. You Known What is the rule?
They talked about Fight Club.
Boxers usually beat each other to a pulp. They are sometimes black and blue.
But what about just blue?
It is not unusual in Congress for the chairman of a House committee to call one of its members a “Smurf.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., verbally sparred Tuesday.
“You look like the Smurfs,” Comer said, an apparent reference to Moskowitz’s diminutive stature and dapper Crayola Blue suit jacket.
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Moskowitz later described Comer as “Gargamel”, the Smurfs’ archenemy.
“No no no no no no. Sing a happy song. No no no no no. Smurf all day long.”
There are no happy songs on Capitol Hill amid these tensions.
There’s a reason why bickering and tensions are rising now in Congress.
The House of Representatives holds its sessions for the tenth week in a row. Such an extension without a holiday is unusual. Ordinary people will say that this is nothing. But lawmakers divide their time between Washington and their states/territories. They do business on Capitol Hill. Doing business back home. In essence, Congress is always “In session.”
Congressional veterans attest to the fact that tensions rise when lawmakers are in Washington for more than three or four weeks in a row. Double that to ten weeks – a period not seen in years. Then combine the unprecedented move to dismiss the Speaker of the House of Representatives with a two-time government shutdown.
Pressure is also mounting over the war in the Middle East, aid to Israel and what could happen with Ukraine. House members also watched a horrific and disturbing video on Tuesday morning of Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians starting on October 7. Members also expressed anger at multiple efforts to reprimand each other for their actions and even fire Republican Rep. George Santos. There was also a failed attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Mix all that together, and you get a volatile mix for Congress. Hence the corruptions.
Moreover, there are questions about why House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Los Angeles, was able to get away with a stopgap spending bill – yet the same approach cost McCarthy his job.
the reason? Look no further than you heard the elbow bump around the Capitol.
Burchett voted to remove McCarthy as Speaker.
Frankly, some members will tell you they never trusted McCarthy.
“He did things like (Burchette elbow) to us all the time,” one House Republican told Fox. “Just behind the scenes.”
In short, there was always a group of Republicans who hated McCarthy. But they prefer Johnson. Hence, McCarthy’s ouster was personal. It was not about policy or legislative strategy.
For information, McCarthy and Mullen are long-time allies. In fact, Mullen regularly traveled to the House floor to visit McCarthy when he faced difficult votes on spending bills, his ouster, and even during potential efforts to revive the former House speaker.
I actually asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whether he has any political climate control influence.
“It’s very difficult to control the behavior of everyone in the building,” McConnell replied. “I don’t consider it my responsibility. This is something the Capitol Police have to deal with.”
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., saw this as another episode he called the Republican Civil War. Jeffries added that the Republican Party “has reached a new low.”
But some Republicans downplayed the decency violations.
“This is nothing, man. This is small potatoes,” said Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. “Anyone who’s been in high school or college or been in a sports locker room. Things get nervous. It’s not even a big deal.”
Mullen noted that battles and duels have a long place in American history.
“Andrew Jackson challenged nine people to a duel when he was president. He also knocked out one man at a White House dinner,” Mullen told Fox Business. “Maybe we should bring some of that back.”
Washington was a violent place in the 19th century.
Newspaper reporter Charles Kincaid shot and killed Representative William Taulbee, Democrat of Kentucky, on the Capitol steps in 1890. Blood is still visible on the marble steps today.
Representative Preston Brooks, D-S.C., caned Senator Charles Sumner, Republican of Massachusetts, on the Senate floor in 1856.
On Fox, Mullen confirms he won’t back down from O’Brien.
“Every now and then a bully needs to be taught a lesson,” Mullen boasted.
But Mullen’s bluster comes amid a contemporary era of political violence.
David DeBape is now on trial for attacking Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, at their home in San Francisco last year. A gunman nearly killed former Reps. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and Ron Barber, D-Ariz., in 2011. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, D-Los Angeles, came close to death during a congressional baseball practice in 2017. There is a Capitol riot that left 140 Washington, D.C., and US Capitol Police officers injured. A man carrying a bat stormed the district office of Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., in the spring, severely wounding two aides.
“Sit!” Senate Health, Education and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders chided Bernie Sanders when Mullen rose to fight O’Brien. “You are a United States Senator!”
Calling for calm in this atmosphere may be more important than urging people to quarrel.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., received some blowback from House conservatives on Tuesday, as lawmakers were concerned with voting on a stopgap spending bill to avoid a weekend shutdown. But Johnson defended his version of a two-step approach to keeping the federal lights on until mid-January.
“This allows us as Conservatives to fight the battle in the next stages of this,” Johnson said.
Journalists talked about his maneuvering with Johnson since he renewed old funding and it was still a stopgap spending bill — both anathema to the right.
“We’re not giving up. We’re fighting,” Johnson said. “But you have to be wise in choosing your battles. You have to fight battles that you can win.”
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It’s unclear who might prevail in this tilt between Kevin McCarthy and Tim Burchett. Same with the Markwayne Mullin/Sean O’Brien match. Johnson may have been talking about fighting political battles with ideas and words. But under his leadership, the Speaker offered sage advice: Fight the fights you can win.
Any time Congress resorts to the threat of physical violence, it is everyone’s loss.