Jul 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Congress gets a timeout after dysfunctional summer

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House members finally reached their August recess this weekend after a string of unusual, and at times contentious, incidents that clouded efforts to avoid a government shutdown — and signaled that they needed a timeout.

Why it matters: The House has had a long year, from January's marathon speaker election to May and June's close call on defaulting on the federal debt — not to mention conservatives' unprecedented tactics to grind the House floor to a halt.

Add a surge in personal confrontations and bizarre incidents, and you've got a recipe for dysfunction.

  • Freshman Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) was slammed by members on both sides of the aisle following a profanity-laced encounter involving the Wisconsin Republican screaming at a group of teenage Senate pages.
  • Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) shocked some of her colleagues by talking about her sex life during her remarks at the South Carolina Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday morning.
  • Speaker McCarthy and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) — who have long had a combative relationship — reportedly threatened to fight each other, with Swalwell calling McCarthy a p**** on the House floor in June, according to the Daily Beast.
  • In another House floor incident, conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) a “little b****” after she introduced a competing impeachment bill. The incident contributed to Greene being booted from the House Freedom Caucus.
  • Taylor Greene also infuriated Democrats during a congressional hearing by showing sexually explicit photos of Hunter Biden.

The big picture: Multiple congressional staffers told Axios it was clear members need to get out of D.C.

  • Lawmakers and aides have long abided by the notion that members of Congress have cooler heads after spending time in their districts.

What's next: The end of recess will be followed by a frantic sprint to get all 12 appropriations bills done before a government shutdown in October.

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