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Sticks and Stone on House and Senate Floors

It always seems to happen just before Congress adjourns for a long recess: the pace is frenetic, tensions mount and tempers (and nostrils) flare. Some members throw tantrums, others throw punches, or come close to it anyway.

Such has been the case over the past several days as the House and Senate rush to wrap up several big pieces of legislation before getting out of town for the August recess.

Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr.
(D-Ill.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) nearly came to blows and full-on Kung Fu fighting on the House floor - a match, by the way, that had odds on Jackson at something like 100-1; Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) had a meltdown and tried to shut down the entire House; and at one point Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) of not being a man of his word - having nothing to do with madams or prostitutes - and was seen later on the Senate floor air poking his finger in Vitter's chest while dressing him down, so to speak.

For Abercrombie's part, he threw a tantrum on the House floor Wednesday after Democratic leaders decided not to allow a vote on his Iraq troop redeployment bill. With that, Mr. Aloha (that's how he greets people) went nuclear and made a motion for the House to adjourn. The motion failed, but Abercrombie won a small coup: the leadership capitulated and now it appears the Hawaiian congressman will get a vote on his bill after all.

That little episode came just hours after Reps. Jackson and Terry got into an argument over the rules for debating health care legislation. As Congressional Quarterly reported, Jackson shouted that Republicans "can't be trusted." To which Lee said, "Shut up." Jackson "used the F-word repeatedly" and invited Terry to "step outside."

They never stepped outside and, according to Terry's spokeswoman, Kristin Durbin, the two members wound up "shaking hands and agreed to put it behind them." Their colleagues even joked that they should have a little Smackdown fight for charity, she said. "It's in the past now."

But if they had gotten into a fight, judging by this photo from Jackson's web site and this photo from Terry's - um, who do you think would have won?

As one Nebraska delegation aide quipped, "It would have been Bruce Lee vs. Pillsbury Dough Boy."

Then there was the overlooked incident on Friday of last week when Harry Reid accused Vitter of being dishonorable. Not in the same way Vitter admitted to be being dishonorable a few weeks ago.

Vitter and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had struck a deal on a timeline for when Vitter would be allowed to offer his amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. And apparently, Vitter didn't stick to the agreement.

Murray first went to the floor and complained, in painfully diplomatic terms, that Vitter had broken their deal. Harry Reid? Less diplomatic.

"It doesn't matter who you make an arrangement with. If you tell him you're going to do something, you tell her you're going to do something, that's the way it is," Reid said on the floor. "Senator Murray said it in a more discreet fashion than I'm going to say it: Somebody didn't keep their word."

He didn't stop there, he only got more threatening.

"So this is not appropriate. This is wrong. I would hope that the senator from Louisiana would kind of retrace his steps and back off and put us back where we should be. If that is not the case and he chooses not to do that, I think it's going to be a difficult time," Reid warned.

(Note to Senator Vitter: aren't times tough enough as it is?)

Later, on the Senate floor but away from the microphones, Reid was seen talking sternly to Vitter while pointing his finger at Vitter's chest. As one source said, "As if to say, 'You've gone too far.'"

We'll keep an eye out for more tense moments, there are sure to be some between now and this weekend, or whenever Congress finally wraps it up and adjourns.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  August 1, 2007; 7:10 PM ET
 
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Comments

This has been pretty much a do little or nothing Congress. They've got enough energy to argue or fight over things that don't promote meaningful legislation to include the usual introduction of amendments they know are unacceptable just to make points with constituents and political friends. It's no wonder this wonderful bunch has a lower rating than the President. Yet history indicates this is the way it has pretty much always been. Ain't it great!!!

Posted by: r man | August 2, 2007 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm still waiting for them to kick Vitter out of Congress. What he's done (with his "escorts") has got to break some Senate rules of acceptable behavior.

Posted by: Mark d'Arlington | August 2, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Two things:

1. Prostitution should be legalized.(Germany, Australia and most of Europe)
AND
2. We need a third party to represent the average American... like a Labor Party. (Australia and England for instance)

The current two parties are out of touch with reality and the constitution. They are legislatively taking away the rights we are guaranteed in the constitution and the bill of rights.

Posted by: panman1 | August 2, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Panman1. There is this acute need for another party that will sail at par with the needs of the common man.

These alligators in the two current parties are in a world of their own.

Then again, are we not having a more chaotic House than any other democratic House the world over? what could be more hilarious than the shadow-boxing in the House?

Posted by: Herbert-Jean Awuor | August 3, 2007 4:39 AM | Report abuse

I love this stuff! This is what Democracy is supposed to be about, and if I remember correctly, the way our founding fathers worked out their differences. I much prefer this less kind, less gentle Congress to the Republican majority Congress of recent years. The only thing that got a workout in those years was the Republicans' rubber stamp. "President wants it? No, problem. (STAMP) He's got it!" This appearance of mayhem in Congress is MUCH preferable to that, in my opinion.

Posted by: Shutup | August 3, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I have serious doubts about State and U.S. senators and represetatives ability to understand what the constitution says. Especially the god given rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. They seem to be removing the persuit part of the last by making it impossible to do that by banning the things that are part of what makes some people happy while insuring the things are available that make others happy, these mostly involve the mercatile interests of big pharmaceutical companies and billion dollar foundations, while the prior case involves smoking, eating and deciding what they want to do of their own free choice.

When government negates the free market place and the free choice of the people with mandates favoring power and money interests, the whole idea of the constitution is debased and nullified.

I think this is a violation of the oath they took to support the Constitution of the United States when they were sworn in and should be grounds to remove them from office.

Posted by: Allen Campbell | August 3, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This is an exceptional blog -- adult and serious, and without the usual mad-dog diatribes.

Posted by: sisyphusinsoho | August 3, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

This is an exceptional blog -- adult and serious, and without the usual mad-dog diatribes.

Posted by: sisyphusinsoho | August 3, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

This is an exceptional blog -- adult and serious, and without the usual mad-dog diatribes.

Posted by: sisyphusinsoho | August 3, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

we would take a lot of politics out of congress was the way it used to be,senators are chosen by the states politicians not the state voters then the cash need would be gone.

Posted by: fred szaban | August 3, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

we would take a lot of politics out of congress was the way it used to be,senators are chosen by the states politicians not the state voters then the cash need would be gone.

Posted by: fred szaban | August 3, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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