The Corner

Politics & Policy

Fear and Loathing in the U.S. House of Representatives

The U.S. Capitol during a morning rainstorm on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Representative Lauren Boebert (R., Colo.) found herself in a stand-off with Capitol Police officers on Tuesday night after her handbag set off newly installed metal detectors that House members were required to pass through before being allowed onto the floor. In a tweet later that evening, the freshman congresswoman seemed to imply that her firearm was responsible for the incident, claiming that she was “legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, D.C. and within the Capitol complex.” While it is true that members are allowed to have firearms on the premises, the arms are supposed to remain in members’ offices. Acting House sergeant-at-arms Timothy Blodgett even reminded the lower chamber’s denizens of this earlier that day. It’s unclear exactly how the situation was ultimately resolved, but Boebert was eventually allowed to proceed.

The confrontation came less than a week after a riot interrupted Congress’s vote to certify the Electoral College results from last November’s election. Boebert came under fire for her conduct during the incursion into the Capitol building as well, specifically for tweeting that Nancy Pelosi had left the House floor at one point, endangering the Speaker, according to some observers. Our John McCormack points out that this is a mostly unfair allegation.

Both of Boebert’s early misadventures speak to an increasingly distrustful atmosphere on Capitol Hill though. Instead of bringing members together, the riot and subsequent debate over President Trump’s role in inciting it seem to have only highlighted and deepened partisan differences. 

The decision by Speaker Pelosi to install detectors at the entrance to the House chamber suggests a genuine fear that one or more of her colleagues might represent a security threat, or, more cynically, a desire to make people think she harbors such fears. Boebert’s insistence on flouting House rules and keeping her firearm on her person even as she debates and votes suggests a baseline level of disrespect for colleagues. 

Meanwhile, “Squad” member Ayanna Pressley has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak in the House by describing her experience during the attack on the Capitol like this:

The second I realized our “safe room” from the violent white supremacist mob included treasonous, white supremacist, anti masker Members of Congress who incited the mob in the first place, I exited. Furious that more of my colleagues by the day are testing positive.

Pressley’s chief of staff also announced that the panic buttons in her office had been removed, hinting at an inside job of some sort.

A few months ago, Cameron Hilditch wrote about the congenial atmosphere in the U.S. Senate, which manifested itself during the Amy Coney Barrett hearings. The House makes for a less friendly work environment — naturally, given its size and majoritarianism. But the extent of discord in it at present is untenable.