Congress split into two different hemispheres

Marjorie Taylor Greene taunts AOC

Reporter witnesses bizarre encounter

It’s hard to determine where Congress stands these days.

On one hand, there’s a bipartisan bill to create a 10-member commission to investigate the January riot at the Capitol. There’s likely across-the-aisle support for a $1.9 billion supplemental spending bill to bolster security at the Capitol. Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., along with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., are inching closer to a prospective pact on police reform. Such a deal eluded lawmakers – or lawmakers intentionally avoided a deal – after the death of George Floyd last year. They’d like to have an agreement in form before the anniversary of Floyd’s death in a few weeks. There may even be an opportunity to forge a bipartisan arrangement on infrastructure.

After a White House meeting on infrastructure, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said President Biden wanted a “give and take” on the issue and “asked us to come back and re-work an offer, so that he could then react to that and then re-offer to us.” Capito was “encouraged” and thought there was an effort to draft a bipartisan bill. More on that comes this week.

This is what voters want most of their lawmakers to do. Work together. Search for and reach bipartisan compromise. Find solutions to vexing problems.

That’s one hemisphere in Congress right now.

And then there is the other hemisphere of Congress.

“Since I have been a Member of Congress, I was kicked off of my committees without an ethics violation. Cori Bush was screaming at me. A verbal assault. The Representative from Guam marches the National Guard on my office,” protested Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. “What else happened? Marie Newman shoulder checked me in front of the Capitol Police yesterday. That’s a physical assault. My staffer said that he doesn’t have to wear a mask any more and then they chased him. Democrats are the party of aggression and violence.”

That’s a lot to unpack.

This began when Greene hectored Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., in a congressional hallway.

“Hey, Alexandria!” badgered Greene at the New York Democrat, according to various reporters who witnessed the scene. “You don’t care about the American people.”

Ocasio-Cortez didn’t respond to Greene’s goading that she was a “radical socialist” and walked away.

But the next day, Ocasio-Cortez did weigh in on Greene verbally accosting her.

“This is a woman that’s deeply unwell and needs some help,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “At this point, I think the depth of that unwellness has raised concerns for other Members as well.”

Ocasio-Cortez said Greene also berated her on the floor of the House a few weeks ago.

“I think it’s an assessment for the Ethics Committee,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

She’s not the only one.

“It’s so beyond the pale,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of Greene’s conduct. “It probably is a matter for the Ethics Committee.”

Pelosi noted House members reported Greene’s behavior to her office, characterizing the upbraiding of Ocasio-Cortez as a “verbal assault” and “abuse of our colleague.” Pelosi said Greene’s comportment brought “dishonor to the House.”

“This is beneath the dignity of a person serving in the Congress of the United States and is a cause for trauma and fear among Members, especially on the heals of an insurrection,” said Pelosi.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 19, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)
(AP)

Then, Pelosi pivoted. The Speaker noted she wasn’t convinced that some Republicans believed the riot happened on January 6. She invoked the remarks of Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., at a hearing last week on the riot. Clyde observed that if you looked at some video from January 6, you may have considered it “a normal tourist visit.”

Clyde said that some of those who “entered the Capitol” and walked through Statuary Hall did so “in orderly fashion, staying between the stanchions and ropes.”

Yes. But the verb “entered” is hardly the word to use to describe the rioters ingress into the Capitol. They bull rushed the building. Smashed windows and doors. Tased police officers. Threw fire extinguishers and fencing at law enforcement.

The mob stormed the Capitol.

Clyde may be right that there were some frames of video showing insurgents ambling through the center of Statuary Hall. But how about the hundreds of people who tangled with police, barged into Pelosi’s office, trapped an officer between doors and desecrated the Capitol? What about the mob which used flagpoles as battering rams to break windows and tried to smash their way into the Speaker’s Lobby, just off the House floor?

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., had an answer for that.

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 29: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., attends a House Oversight and Reform Committee business meeting in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, January 29, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At the same hearing where Clyde offered his assessment of the riot, Gosar suggested that a U.S. Capitol Police Officer “executed” Ashli Babbitt when she tried to scale the transom leading to the Speaker’s Lobby and the House floor.

“She was wrapped in a U.S. flag,” Gosar said of Babbitt.

It was as though to suggest that such patriotic apparel serves as a sartorial shield to protect persons from such consequences, even if you’re trying to maraud your way into the House chamber during the Constitutionally-mandated certification of the Electoral College.

After Babbitt’s death, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., asserted that it was “Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.”

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., has now crafted a resolution to censure Clyde, Gosar and Hice for their takes on January 6.

So, there are two distinct hemispheres on Capitol Hill now. One where lawmakers appear to make progress and may yet solve some seemingly intractable political and policy issues. Infrastructure. Police reform. Protecting the Capitol. Even probing the riot itself – although House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy,R-Calif., now says he opposes that package.

And then there is the other hemisphere where the wounds of January 6 and the November election never seem to scab over.

Sometimes, lawmakers may even cross over into both hemispheres, depending on the issue or the politics. It’s not uncommon for there to be dichotomies on Capitol Hill. Strange bedfellows. Members working together on one set of issues. Opposing each other – sometimes vehemently – on others.

But rarely has it been so personal. So raw. So exposed.

And that’s why these distinct hemispheres may never merge.

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