Tuesday marked yet another astonishing day on the Hill, with tempers flaring and schoolyard fights breaking out at both ends of the Capitol as Republicans embraced cartoonish name-calling and physical violence in their ranks.
- The spirit of Zell Miller lives on: House Oversight Chairman James Comer called Jared Moscowitz a smurf. Bernie Sanders broke up what was almost a fist fight between Markwayne Mullin and a testifying teamster during a Senate HELP hearing. And in front of an N.P.R. reporter, Kevin McCarthy elbowed Tim Burchett, who voted for him to be speaker six weeks ago. This is, increasingly, what we are beginning to call a regular Tuesday in Congress.
It’s not exactly news this year for members—mostly, but not exclusively, Republicans—to get aggressively rowdy (eyes on you, Derrick Van Orden, Ronny Jackson, Lauren Boebert, M.T.G., Jamaal Bowman). But the previous anti-social behavior was committed by junior members, most in their third term or less. Tuesday’s altercations involved leaders: a senator, a House chairman, and a former speaker. Rather than leaders setting the once-obligatory remember-where-we-all-work tone for the rank-and-file, it’s looking increasingly like party elders are taking their cues from the more rambunctious junior members.
- We Gotta Get Out of This Place: With so much escalating boorishness, it’s no wonder eight House members, plus Senator Joe Manchin, announced their retirements over the last month. With each passing day resembling a freakshow, retiring members like House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger and once-aspiring House Energy and Commerce chairman Michael Burgess are beginning to resemble Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Walking anachronisms who are watching the world as they know it collapse in the strangest ways imaginable.
- Theories abound…: The Mullin incident further supports a repeated theory that surfaces in conversations I’ve had with Hill and K Street Republicans: The Senate is not immune from the House crazy, and, in fact, becomes more like the House with each cycle. (Mullin is one of several House Republicans who make the jump to the Senate each cycle, replacing their more traditional, stodgy predecessors.)
The commentary coming out of Capitol Hill is that this behavior is a symptom of exhausted members following the worst fall in anyone’s memory. Recall, however, that these members were not physically and emotionally spent from a sweeping legislative push like the A.C.A., or responding to the 9/11 attacks. They’re exhausted from doing, well, nothing. This is what the G.O.P.-led House has gotten done since Labor Day: They ousted and replaced a speaker, filed a bunch of censure resolutions against each other, and led half-hearted impeachment movements against Joe Biden and Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Oh, and the government runs out of money on Friday.