Capping off a bizarre day in the halls of Congress, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed an ethics complaint against former Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) over an alleged assault on a fellow lawmaker.
On Tuesday morning, the California Republican “elbowed” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) in the back in an incident witnessed by NPR reporter Claudia Grisales who described it in a post to X as initially thinking it was a “joke” until a chase ensued, saying that she has “NEVER seen this on Capitol Hill.”
Burchett was one of the eight GOP House members who voted to boot McCarthy from his prestigious albeit short stint of presiding over the lower chamber last month and according to Grisales, he didn’t find it funny.
Burchett’s back was to McCarthy and his detail walking by in the hallway, then the lunge.
Burchett responded jokingly as McCarthy kept walking, “Sorry Kevin didn’t mean to elbow –” then seriously yelled, “why’d you elbow me in the back Kevin?! Hey Kevin, you got any guts!?”
— Claudia Grisales (@cgrisales) November 14, 2023
Hours later, Gaetz – who led the successful overthrow of McCarthy – announced that he had referred his Republican adversary to the House Ethics Committee for assaulting Burchett.
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) November 14, 2023
“It has come to my attention that this morning, November 14, 2023, following a meeting of the House Republican Conference, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) assaulted Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN) in the hallways of Capitol complex. This assault was witnessed by numerous people, including Claudia Griseles of NPR, who was interviewing Rep. Burchett at the time,” Gaetz wrote. “For his part, Rep. Burchett has described the attack as a ‘sucker punch’ and ‘a clean shot to the kidney.’”
“Needless to say, this incident deserves immediate and swift investigation by the Ethics Committee. This Congress has seen a substantial increase in breaches of decorum unlike anything we have seen since the pre-Civil War era,” he added. “I myself have been a victim of outrageous conduct on the House floor as well, but nothing like an open and public assault on a Member, committed by another Member. The rot starts at the top.”
CNN’s Manu Raju caught up with Rep. Burchett outside the Capitol after the incident.
Tim Burchett tells CNN about Kevin McCarthy’s elbow shot:
“He is a bully with $17 million and a security detail. He is the type of guy that when you are a kid, he would throw a rock over the fence and run home to hide behind his mama’s skirt.” pic.twitter.com/ZsBP6bISe7
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) November 14, 2023
“He is a bully with $17 million and a security detail. He is the type of guy that when you are a kid, he would throw a rock over the fence and run home to hide behind his mama’s skirt,” the congressman said of McCarthy, adding “I just don’t expect a guy who was at one time three steps away from the White House to hit you with a sucker punch in the hallway.”
“Oh good,” McCarthy said. “No. I think Ethics is a good place for Gaetz to be,” McCarthy cracked when asked about the complaint.
“While Rep. Burchett is within his rights to decline to press charges against Rep. McCarthy, your Committee does have a duty to investigate breaches of the binding Code of Official Conduct, whose first rule is that ‘A Member… shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’ There is substantial evidence that Rep. McCarthy breached this duty,” Gaetz wrote in his letter to the committee.
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