Threats of violence aren’t just emanating from outside Congress. On Monday of last week, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) shared on his official accounts an animated cartoon showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and attacking President Biden with two swords. After the furor that arose over the posting, Gosar claimed it was “only a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy,” and does “not espouse violence or harm towards any Member of Congress or Mr. Biden.” However, he subsequently deleted the video from his sites.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded almost immediately by calling on both the House Ethics Committee and law enforcement to investigate the matter, and implored House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to join her in condemning the “horrific” video. McCarthy reportedly was not immediately available for comment.
Then, last Friday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), along with 60 co-sponsors, filed a resolution to censure Gosar. If ruled in order, it is privileged for floor consideration and will not need to first clear the Ethics Committee.
All the vitriol in the House is not confined to Republicans. The ongoing disagreements between progressive and moderate Democrats over the president’s priorities have been on public display for several weeks now, but limited primarily to name-calling and motive-questioning rather than any intimations of violence.
During a House Rules Committee hearing on the president’s build back better social spending plan, one of the committee’s Democratic members leveled personal attacks against certain Republican members, calling them liars. This is in clear violation of House Rule IX which prohibits members from impugning the motives, reputation, conduct and veracity of other members.
Are all these nasty goings-on a temporary tempest or precursor of a longer-term storm enveloping the House of Representatives? History has shown that Congress has periodically been tossed by such contretemps, leaving substantial damage in their wakes, but has eventually emerged the stronger for experiencing the downside of such fierce infighting.
I wish I could be reassured by that historical record, but it is difficult in the midst of such turmoil to see a light on the horizon. It is a major test for the internal leadership of both parties, as well as for a disgusted and disillusioned public willing to shout, “Enough!”