8:08 PM ET, November 15, 2023
Analysis: The Day Congress Went Back to Fourth Grade
Analysis from CNN’s Stephen Collinson
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Sometimes it feels like Congress is trying to parody itself.
As lawmakers stagger toward the Thanksgiving holiday after some of the ugliest and most unproductive weeks in years, the place is coming out completely untucked.
Despite the House passing a funding bill to keep the government open beyond this week, representatives played out a farce Tuesday. The joke was about Americans being deprived of a serious, functioning government.
The former GOP leader repeatedly denied the allegation and once squarely blamed the collision. Then, in a flash of bravado, McCarthy added, “If I hit a kidney, they’d be on the ground.”
But it wasn’t even the most heated showdown of the day.
Across Capitol Hill in the world’s so-called largest deliberative body, Republican Senator Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma was treated to a price fight. He told Sean O’Brien, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, that “Get your ass up!” and challenged him to a fight. Mullin was angered by earlier tweets in which O’Brien apparently called him a “clown.”
“Do you want to do it now?” Mullin asked.
“I would love to do it right now,” O’Brien replied from the witness stand.
A stunned Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders, waved his arms, pounded his gavel and complained that he was supposed to be overseeing a hearing, not a cage match.
“God knows, the American people have enough contempt for Congress, let’s not make it worse,” Sanders warned, reminding Mullin that he was a U.S. senator.
The normally dormant members of the lopsided Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee had never seen anything like this. But Mullin, posing as a Sooner State folk hero, explained to reporters that he had no choice but to answer the bell. “You don’t do that in Oklahoma. You don’t run your mouth unless you want to answer the call,” said the former Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
A disaster averted – or perhaps just postponed: In a minor miracle, the chaotically dysfunctional House of Representatives managed to take steps on Tuesday to avert a looming government shutdown by passing a plan to temporarily fund the federal machine. The Senate still needs to approve the measure, which will only delay the next funding deadlines until early next year.
But even the House vote revealed the forces threatening to tear the chamber apart again soon, with 93 Republicans opposing the bill. Conservatives snarl at rookie President Mike Johnson’s failure to include massive spending cuts that have no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or Biden’s White House and would guarantee a shutdown that would hurt the GOP and bring pain to millions of Americans.
Their reluctance meant Johnson was forced to rely on Democratic votes to get it through the House, using exactly the same maneuver that cost McCarthy his job last month.
So effectively, because the GOP majority in the House is so divided, it can only work if Democrats want it to.