Democratic fury over the mob attack on the Capitol and its aftermath is spilling into nearly every aspect of life in the House, squashing hopes for comity and threatening even mundane legislative tasks like the naming of a local post office.
Democrats accuse Republicans of nothing short of sabotaging the nation’s democracy with false claims that November’s election was “stolen” from former President Trump.
Already angry that the refusal by some Republicans to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was endangering lives, Democrats now see the GOP as directly putting lawmaker lives on the line with dangerous rhetoric that feeds outlandish conspiracy theories.
“It's impossible for us to not look at them in a different light,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said of the 139 Republicans who voted to reverse the election results.
Bad blood reached a new level Tuesday night when Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) took the highly unusual step of forcing a full floor vote on an uncontroversial bill to name a Mississippi post office because it was authored by a Republican who voted to overturn the election.
It was equally evident during a Postal Service hearing on Wednesday as a furious Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) lashed out at a top Trump ally, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who had accused Democrats of attacking Postmaster General Louis DeJoy last year simply to damage Trump’s reelection chances.
“It was all a charade!” Jordan said.
“I didn’t vote to overturn an election. And I will not be lectured by people who did, about partisanship,” Connolly shot back, jabbing his finger at Jordan.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday lashed out at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for giving "aid and comfort" to the insurrectionists.
McCarthy, a short time later, would reply in turn, using a rare floor speech to accuse Democrats of adopting strategies of “grievance” designed to silence “millions of constituents” represented by the minority Republicans.
Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who called former President Trump’s stand on Jan. 6 “our 1776 moment,” forced a vote Wednesday to end House business for the day; it failed but not before grumbling from members of both parties.
Many Democrats say it is untenable to work with those GOP lawmakers who voted to overturn the election results even after the deadly attack.
“It's an improbable situation because these are the people that tried to undermine our government. And they may be no less guilty than the people who attacked the Capitol,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
“It is going to be much harder to work across the aisle,” echoed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who blamed some GOP lawmakers for endangering her.
“Even the aftermath of the sixth, there were [GOP] members that were kind of deliberately advancing falsehoods about my location, and then turning around and saying, 'I'd love for us to work together sometime,’ ” she added. “This is very serious. Many members of Congress nearly died. … So, the idea that people just want to pretend that that has no impact on their ability to work is quite shocking, I think, and absurd.”
Republicans, for their part, accuse Democrats of distorting the events of Jan. 6 in order to paint the entire GOP as complicit for the actions of the mob.
Even the proposed 9/11-style commission to look into the Jan. 6 domestic terror attack has been bogged down by partisan politics. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been circulating draft legislation that would create an independent, bipartisan commission, where Democrats would get seven appointments and Republicans four.
Republicans have rejected that proposal, demanding an even split between the parties and subpoena power for both the majority and minority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday called Pelosi’s plan “partisan by design,” and both he and McCarthy have pointed to remarks by the 9/11 Commission leaders — Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton — calling for an evenly split commission like theirs was.
“It seems most of this is politically driven,” McCarthy said of Pelosi’s plan, “and it seems like she’s setting up a system to fail.”
But House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) defended the Pelosi proposal, arguing that the 9/11 panel was formed under a divided government, but Democrats now control the House, Senate and White House.
“It was five and five when you had split authorities in leadership,” Thompson said. For the Jan. 6 commission, “I think Democrats should pick the chair and Republicans can pick the vice chair and I don’t think in the end that would destroy a product that that commission would generate.
“To some it’s partisan, but to others it’s the process,” he added. “Our duty requires us to do that because God forbid, if we don’t, then something else can happen. The next time the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers doesn’t like what we do, they’ll just go tear up the place again.”
Casten’s effort Tuesday highlighted the acrimony. The Illinois Democrat derailed the bid by GOP Rep. Trent Kelly (Miss.) to fast-track a bill to rename a post office in his district. Kelly had met with a group of protesters on Jan. 6 and later voted to overturn the election results.
Still, an overwhelming majority of Democrats opposed Casten’s gambit, with many explaining it was simply the wrong vehicle for holding lawmakers accountable.
“We have choices in terms of how we interact and with whom we work, and who we choose to help co-lead bipartisan efforts,” Kildee said. “And I think that's more likely to be how this will be manifest.”
Rank-and-file Republicans say they just want to put Jan. 6 in the rearview mirror and move on. The events divided their party, with 10 House Republicans voting to impeach Trump and seven GOP senators voting for his conviction. While that pales in comparison to the 43 Republicans who voted to acquit, it is a historic high for an impeachment trial.
Moving on will be difficult given the bad blood and the daily reminders of what happened.