In one of the odder and even more shocking than normal moments from Congress so far this year, former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy was accused yesterday by Rep. Tim Burchett, a Republican, of hitting Rep. Burchett in the kidney with his elbow, then ignominiously hurrying away. Rep. McCarthy strenuously denies the allegations, but Rep. Burchett also insists that they are true.
Now, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a committed opponent of former Speaker McCarthy, is calling for a House ethics investigation into Rep. McCarthy over the incident, alleging that the breach of decorum Rep. McCarthy engaged in by sucker punching another member of the caucus in the kidney is beyond reproach.
In the letter in which he demanded the House ethics investigation, Rep. Gaetz began by noting that there are numerous witnesses to the alleged assault, including an NPR reporter who was interviewing Rep. Burchett at the time the alleged assault occurred.
He wrote, “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.”
Continuing, Rep. Gaetz quoted Rep. Burchett in order to indicate that the alleged contact between the two men was not a harmless and accidental bump, but rather an intentional hit to the kidney. He wrote, “For his part, Rep. Burchett has described the attack as a ‘sucker punch’ and ‘a clean shot to the kidney.’”
Rep. Gaetz then argued that such an attack demands an investigation, particularly given the numerous “breaches of decorum” and “outrageous conduct” that has been going on in the House, but that the “open and public assault” outdoes past issues.
He wrote, “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. 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.”
Rep. Gaetz then added that while Rep. Burchett can choose not to press criminal charges, the ethics matter must be investigated, writing, “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.”
He then reaffirmed his demands for such an investigation, writing, “Given Rep. Burchett’s comments on the matter, and the statements of public witnesses, I request the House Committee on Ethics to proceed immediately with an investigation into the facts of today’s incident, including interviewing, under oath, the alleged assailant and assailee, and any witnesses.”
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