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 Republicans choose violence in bonkers day on Capitol Hill

A series of shouting matches and physical altercations show that the party of Trump has abandoned any sense of decorum.

By Jesse Valentine - November 16, 2023
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Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2023. (Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP Images)

From talk of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue to fantasizing about executing journalists to calling his political opponents vermin, former President Donald Trump has fostered a culture of violence in the Republican Party. This week, the effects of that rhetoric were on vivid display.

It started with a shove. On Tuesday morning, NPR reporter Claudia Grisales tweeted that she saw Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) push Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) in a Capitol hallway. Burchett then chased after McCarthy and angrily confronted him.

“I got elbowed in the back and it kind of caught me off guard because it was a clean shot to the kidneys,” Burchett told CNN’s Manu Raju. “I turned back and there was Kevin.”

The kerfuffle prompted former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to share pages from his recently published memoir in which he claimed McCarthy body checked him on two separate occasions. McCarthy denied assaulting either representative. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) asked the House Committee on Ethics to investigate McCarthy’s behavior.

The alleged violence and threats weren’t limited to the House. On the same day, Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) tried to pick a fight with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Sean O’Brien during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. At one point, Mullin lunged out of his chair and committee Chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had to intervene.

In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Mullin expressed no remorse about the incident.

“If I didn’t do that, people in Oklahoma would be pretty upset at me,” Mullin claimed. “That’s not how we’re raised, and I’m supposed to represent Oklahoma values.”

Also on Tuesday, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky went on a verbal tirade against Democratic Florida Rep. Jared Moskowitz and said he looked like a Smurf; Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called Republican California Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) a “pussy.”

Violent outbursts from lawmakers are not a new phenomenon. In 1856, South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks attacked Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane after a floor speech. In 1992, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) exchanged shoves with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). In 2004, Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) said he wanted to challenge MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews to a duel. But in the age of Trump, such attacks by Republicans have become more frequent.

In the ethics complaint against McCarthy, Gaetz wrote: “I myself have been a victim of outrageous conduct on the House floor as well, but nothing like an open and public assault on a Member, committed by another Member. The rot starts at the top.”


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