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Fistfight nearly breaks out in Senate until Bernie Sanders steps in

WASHINGTON —  Tensions erupted on Capitol Hill on Tuesday after a fistfight nearly broke out in a Senate hearing and one Republican congressman accused former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of assaulting him.

At a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, an argument almost turned into a fistfight between GOP Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma and the president of the Teamsters union, Sean O’Brien.

The exchange occurred when Mullin, a former MMA fighter, recalled an interaction he had with O’Brien in June on Twitter, now known as X.

Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., speaks at a Capitol Hill hearing on March 30. Francis Chung / Politico via AP

At the time, they discussed engaging in an MMA fight for charity after they had gotten into a heated back-and-forth at a previous congressional hearing.

Mullin read aloud O’Brien’s original tweet during the hearing Tuesday, which said: “Greedy CEO who pretends like he’s self made. In reality, just a clown & fraud. Always has been, always will be. Quit the tough guy act in these senate hearings. You know where to find me. Anyplace, Anytime cowboy.”

The tweet also said “#LittleManSyndrome” and showed a photo of Mullin at a debate where he was standing on a pedestal at a podium.

Mullin then said at the hearing: “Sir, this is a time; this is a place. You want to run your mouth? We can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.”

“OK, that’s fine, perfect,” O’Brien said.

“You want to do it now?” Mullin replied.

“I’d love to do it right now,” O’Brien said.

“Then stand your butt up then,” said Mullin.

“You stand your butt up,” said O’Brien.

Mullin then stood up and the committee’s chairman, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., stopped the altercation from happening, yelling at Mullin: “Stop it! No, no, sit down! You know, you’re a United States senator.”

The entire episode devolved, with Mullin and O’Brien calling each other names not normally seen in committee hearings, but they did not get physical. The two appeared to conclude their exchange by agreeing to have coffee together.

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., who voted to oust McCarthy as speaker last month, said that McCarthy had elbowed him in the kidneys while Burchett was speaking to reporters in a hallway.

Burchett said he believes it was intentional, telling reporters: “Oh it was 100% on purpose, ma’am, what are the chances … 435 members of Congress, eight of us voted against him. I’m the one who did it, one of them who did it. He publicly called me out.”

Burchett said that he chased after McCarthy to confront him and that the former speaker didn’t know what Burchett was talking about.

McCarthy denied that he attacked Burchett, telling reporters, “If I’d kidney punched him, he’d be on the ground.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who spearheaded the push to oust McCarthy, filed a complaint to the House Ethics committee about the incident.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seemed to react to both incidents on X. “Today is another example of why Congress shouldn’t be in session for 5 weeks straight. Weird things happen.”

McConnell told reporters he hadn’t heard about the incidents but that it is “very difficult to control the behavior of everybody who’s in the building. I don’t view that as my responsibility. That’s something that the Capitol Police have to deal with.”

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