Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif,’s offer for a speaker almost caused a fistfight when Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., had to be held back in a confrontation with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., but it would have done. It was far from the first time a disagreement between lawmakers had been fought out in the Capitol.
Both the House of Representatives and Senate have a checkered history of lawmakers attacking each other over various disagreements, with fights ranging from a single punch or a blow with a stick to the drawing of guns on the ground.
One of the first widespread incidents occurred in 1798 between Roger Griswold and Matthew Lyon, two legislators from Connecticut and Vermont, respectively. Griswold called Lyon a “rogue” during a disagreement, which was considered an aggressive curse at the time. Lyon responded by spitting in Griswold’s face and the two then continued walking until their colleagues separated them.
The pair weren’t done, however, when Griswold attacked Lyon again a few weeks later, this time with a stick. According to the congressional record, Lyons defended himself with fire tongs.
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Not surprisingly, much of the fighting between lawmakers just before the Civil War revolved around debates over slavery. In 1850, Thomas Benton of Missouri, an anti-slavery Democrat, drew a pistol and pointed it at his colleague Henry Foote of Mississippi during a long disagreement on the issue. However, Benton’s colleagues were able to calm him down before he fired.
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Soon after, in 1856, pro-slavery Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina severely hit one of his colleagues with a stick shortly after delivering a speech in the Senate. The victim, Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, had criticized a Brooks family member and derided slave owners as “pimps.”
As lawmakers attempted to intervene in the beating, Senator Laurence Keitt, a Congressman from Brooks of South Carolina, drew a pistol and threatened anyone who tried to intervene. Sumner remained unconscious and took years to recover.
Brooks’ attack preceded another to come almost 50 years later in 1902, this time a disagreement between senators from the same state. John McLaurin, then South Carolina’s junior senator, stormed into the chamber on February 22 and convicted senior senator Ben Tillman of spreading “a willful, malicious, and willful lie.”
“Tillman stood nearby, turned around and punched McLaurin squarely in the jaw,” the congressional filings read. “The chamber exploded in pandemonium as members struggled to separate both members of the South Carolina delegation. It was over in a long moment, but not without stabbing bruises both on bystanders and on the decency of the Senate.”
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The greatest struggle that ever broke out among legislators took place in 1858 and again centered on slavery. Lawmakers debated the Kansas Territory’s pro-slavery constitution late into the night on Feb. 5, according to House records.
The first sparks flew in the early hours of February 6, when Pennsylvania Republican Galusha Grow and South Carolina Democrat Laurence Keitt — a recurring figure — insulted one another. The pair soon began throwing punches, and reports from the time say a conflict ignited in the home as Northern Republicans feuded with Southern Democrats and over 30 lawmakers joined the frenzy.
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Soon after, the sergeant-at-arms waded into the fray and restored order, but not before two Republicans tore the wig off Mississippi Democrat William Barksdale’s head, chamber records show. Ultimately, the proposed pro-slavery constitution for Kansas failed in Congress, and Kansas entered the United States as a free state in 1861.
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/gaetz-rogers-werent-first-wildest-times-lawmakers-come-blows-capitol Gaetz and Rogers weren’t the first: Here are the wildest times lawmakers have tussled in the Capitol