Tempers Flare, Drama Erupts on Capitol Hill

Sean O’Brien
Screengrab of Sean O’Brien after being challenged by Sen. Markwayne Mullin | Image by Jordan Zakarin/Twitter

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill had a series of heated exchanges Tuesday, ranging from an alleged shove to a near brawl to insults like, “You look like a Smurf.”

The day started with an alleged physical confrontation between former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who had voted him out of the top House job just weeks prior. Claudia Grisales, a congressional reporter for National Public Radio (NPR), said McCarthy “shoved” Burchett, who then proceeded to “chase” after him.

“Why’d you elbow me in the back, Kevin?” Burchett yelled in an audio published by NPR. “Hey Kevin, you got any guts? Jerk.”

“I didn’t elbow you in the back,” McCarthy said.

“You got no guts; you did so,” Burchett responded. “The reporter said it right there; what kind of chicken move is that? You’re pathetic, man.”

McCarthy made later statements to the media denying allegations that he shoved Burchett.

“I didn’t shove or elbow him; it’s a tight hallway,” he told Politico.

“I would not hit him in the kidney. I guess our shoulders hit because Burchett runs up to me afterward. I did not know what he was talking about,” he told ABC. “If I would hit somebody, they would know I hit them.”

MSNBC congressional reporter Ali Vitali said there is a certain tension between lawmakers that makes a case for either Burchett or McCarthy’s story.

“It is the Wild West over here,” Vitali said. “It often is — we joke about that — those of us who spend time covering the House. But the tension that has been simmering among Republicans over the course of the last two months is really the underpinning to what you’re seeing now.”

“So look, I could very much see a world in which an accidental elbow was thrown as people were trying to move through the hallways, and I can also see a world in which what Congressman Burchett says is true, where Speaker McCarthy did this on purpose,” she continued.

The Senate side had its own drama the same day when a committee hearing nearly erupted into a brawl. Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) seemingly challenged Sean O’Brien, the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, to fight during a committee hearing. Mullin read a tweet from O’Brien that dared the Senator to meet him, “any place, any time, Cowboy.”

“Sir, this is a time, this is a place,” Mullin told O’Brien, who was testifying to the committee. “You want to run your mouth? We can be two consenting adults — we can finish it here.”

“OK, that’s fine. Perfect,” O’Brien responded.

“You want to do it right now?” Mullin asked.

“I’d love to do it right now,” O’Brien replied.

“Well, stand your butt up then,” Mullin said.

“You stand your butt up,” O’Brien said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), as chairman of the committee, interrupted the two, who were unable to confront each other in close quarters.

“You’re a United States Senator. Sit down,” Sanders said to Mullin, who had stood up and appeared to be taking off his ring.

The exchange continued for several more minutes, with Mullin challenging O’Brien to a fight for charity. O’Brien did not accept the challenge and mocked Mullin as a “tough guy.”

Back in the House, Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) got into a heated exchange with Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) during their hearing. The two traded verbal blows in discussions about President Joe Biden’s alleged involvement in the business deals of his son Hunter. Moskowitz suggested Comer’s investigations were hypocritical because he allegedly had family deals of his own.

“It has come out in the public that you also do business with your brother with potential loans,” Moskowitz said. “And so, since you have framed that and manipulated that with the American people, that Joe Biden did something wrong when he wasn’t in office, I just would like to know if you would like to use some of my time.”

“I would love, I would love it,” Comer interjected. “You retweeted that story, completely false. I’ve never loaned my brother one penny. My father, who was a dentist, had some farmland. He died, and my brother couldn’t afford — he wanted to sell it, but he wanted to keep it in the family. So, I bought it from my brother. That story that you tweeted also said I had a shell company. That is bulls**t.”

“You look like a Smurf, here, just going around and all this stuff,” Comer said to Moskowitz, who was wearing a light blue suit.

“Gargamel was very angry today,” Moskowitz later replied to Washington Post congressional reporter Jacqueline Alemany, referencing the Smurfs archrival.

Several members of the public responded to Alemany’s post on X, chastising the GOP for the day’s outbursts.

“Soooooo, two GOP physical altercations and a name calling. I’m glad to see my tax dollars at work,” wrote Joyce Miller (@DennisMiller1l).

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