WASHINGTON — Like family members fighting at the Thanksgiving dinner table, lawmakers at the Capitol turned on each other last week.
The ousted president, Kevin McCarthy, was accused of controlling a political enemy, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., who called it a “clean shot to the kidneys.” Senator Markwayne Mullin, Republican of Oklahoma, 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, wearing a blue suit, was called a “smurf” after the diminutive Florida Democrat raised questions during a hearing about Comer and his brother’s business dealings.
“I think they should bring spanking back,” Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., joked, referring to the 1856 beating of Senator Charles Sumner That left him bloodied on the Senate floor.
Aside from the fact that the halls of Congress seem to become “fight club,“ Republicans also said they would try, for the second time, to oust one of their own, scandal-laden Rep. George Santos, R.N.Y., after an Ethics report found, among other things, that the fledgling fabulist had used campaign funds for personal expenses, including designer store shopping, Botox treatments and Onlyfans payments.
Congressional approval rating among Americans is 13%below 20% in June, according to Gallup, but that dismal figure could fall even further after Congress’ “hell week.”
“There are dumb days in the Capitol and there are dumber days in the Capitol, and this was one of the dumbest I’ve seen in a long time,” Rep. Patrick McHenry, R.N.C., said on the day of the McCarthy incidents , Mullen and Moskowitz, just weeks after he presided 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 expense confrontation that almost paralyzed the government, the first dismissal of a speaker in American history, and a Three-week Republican civil war to replace McCarthy who raised and toppled a host of ambitious leaders who wanted the top job. The man who won the speaker’s gavel, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, avoided another shutdown this week, but needed dozens of Democratic votes to do so.
Furious that Congress dragged out the funding fight into the New Year, conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus quickly blocked individual Republican spending bills, forcing Johnson to send lawmakers home a day early for the holiday. Thanksgiving without any Republican victory.
“One thing! I want my Republican colleagues to give me one thing: one! — that I can campaign and say we did it,” thundered Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, on the House floor. a diatribe from a conservative who went viral. “Anyone sitting in the complex, if they want to come down to the room and explain something material, significant and significant to me, the Republican majority has done so.”
Many attributed the unbridled frustration and physical altercations to the fact that the House had been in session for 10 straight weeks since summer recess, punctuated by long nights away from loved ones and nothing to show for it legislatively. Some lawmakers warned that without the Thanksgiving break, someone could end up dead.
“I can understand why breaks are built into the system for people to leave,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., as he descended the still blood-stained staircase where a reporter fatal shot Representative William Taulbee in 1890. “Because I believe that if we were here another week, it is possible that a Republican member would kill another Republican member.”
Lawmakers head for the exits
Members of the House of Representatives are leaving Congress in droves, from veterans to newer lawmakers. More than a dozen have announced they will run for higher or other office and will not return. Others, like Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, are retiring after decades of service and reaching the pinnacle of power.
But some lawmakers say Republican infighting, an unpredictable schedule and political paralysis have contributed to their resignations. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., who earned influential positions on the House and Energy and Commerce committees during her five years in Congress, surprised her colleagues when she announced her retirement plans amid the three-week dispute between speakers. .
He wondered if it’s worth the work being away from his family right now.
“I miss my family. Everyone says that, but I mean it. I miss my husband. I miss my 94-year-old mother, my five grandchildren, my children. We are usually here three weeks out of every month and then the calendar changes. So it’s like trying to schedule something with your family and then you have to change it because you’re not there,” Lesko said.
“The other thing is that it is totally dysfunctional. We can’t do anything around here. It’s very frustrating,” she added.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said he has no regrets about his decision not to run for re-election, citing frustrations with his own party for trying to unseat President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the censorship of Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and 2020 election denialism.
“Unconstitutional impeachments and censures that make no sense…” Buck said, reciting his complaints. “The big factor was that we can’t admit that the Republicans lost the election in 2020, which is crazy! And we can’t work on meaningful legislation, because it hurts politically to say we need to reform Medicare, we need to reform Social Security, we need to rein in spending.”
Republican Rep. Dan Bishop, who is leaving the House to run for North Carolina attorney general, attributed the Republican discord to what he called “insufficient unity of purpose” and a party “in transition.” Bishop, who often clashed with leadership during his four years in Congress, said he might be better suited for an executive role in Raleigh rather than being one of the 435 members of the House.
“French Hill from Arkansas said I have an executive personality; I think that was a backhanded compliment,” Bishop said with a smile. “But it’s true. I can’t wait to sit down and do the same things and I’m an agent of change, I think it’s fair to say, and we have to get on with things.”
Ever the optimist, Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., is not running for re-election, but he’s not all that disenchanted with the Capitol, despite his weekly cross-country flights. He believes he made a difference during his decade in Congress, particularly as chairman of the House Modernization Committee or “Committee to Fix Congress,” which pushed for the improvement of issues such as House technology and diversity and retention. staff.
But Kilmer, 49, wrote in a long and heartfelt statement that the work “has had great costs for 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 did not always get the results I wanted and I hope you will forgive me for that.”
Later, just as he left the chamber, he told reporters about a funny exchange he had with House Chaplain Margaret G. Kibben during last month’s protracted battle between speakers.
“Pray harder,” Kilmer said he joked.
“Imagine what things would be like if I it was not praying a lot,” Kibben responded.