“This is a real tension,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Who was among the roughly two dozen Democrats who were barricaded in the chamber during the January 6 riot and later resigned after spending hours in one safe room with coronavirus infected republicans refusing to wear masks. “I don’t know if this can be repaired. There is certainly a massive gap that currently exists between a large majority of the Republican caucus and us Democrats across the ideological spectrum.”
The friction is particularly strong in the House, where two-thirds of the GOP conference voted to overthrow the elections just hours after the legislature was attacked by a mob calling for precisely these measures. The position of these 139 members is now threatening to revive decades-long relationships in the house and is forcing long-time colleagues to process their raw feelings and palpable anger in the weeks since the attack.
“I’m really struggling with this,” added Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Who was also in the chamber when rioters broke through the building. “I have a hard time interacting with these members right now, especially those with whom I have had a closer relationship. I’m not going to deny reality – that I look at it differently now. They are smaller people to me now. ”
Several Democrats said they are privately considering severing ties with these Republicans entirely as their caucus is weighing possible forms of punishment – especially for those unnamed members, of whom House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said she was gave “help and consolation” to the insurgents.
Some Democrats, especially moderates, argue that their party has no choice but to move on. Some said they privately took their GOP counterparts to vote for decertification, confronted them with their position on private calls, or gave half-joke, blast-filled verbal abuse in the hallways, and insisted that they were still ready, on bills to work together.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Who opposed the confirmation of the election, said he stood by his position but was considering changing it after rioters stormed the Capitol with him and his staff. Cole was in his office on the first floor of the building, where rioters knocked on the door and called his name.
Cole – the top Republican on the House Rules Committee who is in his 10th term, said several Democrats confronted him to ask for his vote.
“Some of them had questions and I patiently sat down and explained to them,” said Cole. “It was a tough call, I went back and forth as to whether or not I should do it. But the mood in my district was very strong. “
But many Democrats say they remain angry with these 139 Republicans, saying that it is harder to move on in the face of persistent security threats that continue to target members. The party leaders have also increased security in the chamber itself – widely seen as recognition that some GOP members could still be threats.
These tensions did not begin to emerge on January 6th. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) Said she was expecting some sort of flare-up after years of watching the rise of the far right. On the day of the vote, Lee, who had to flee the Capitol in high heels on September 11, 2001, decided to wear tennis shoes just in case.
“I’ve thought about it. I haven’t spoken to any of them because I’m just angry,” said Lee, who sits on the Appropriations Panel – a long-standing bastion of non-partisanship – where 14 out of 26 Republicans voted in favor of the results to refuse.
“You can’t subdivide because you know this is real. I don’t know if you think it’s real, I don’t know if you understand that Donald Trump opened Pandora’s box,” Lee said and added that the behavior cannot go unpunished and she believes more violence may be imminent, “We have to do something.”
Unlike after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there was no moment of unity on Capitol Hill. Instead, the atmosphere is more charged.
“It is sad that we are not more united to make sure we are protecting the institution,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Who has called for a 9/11 independent commission to resolve the remaining mob -Attack to investigate five people dead. Davis did not vote to overturn the election.
In fact, hours after the riot, when lawmakers resumed the electoral certification process, some lawmakers, including MP Andy Harris (R-Md.), Almost came beating at 2 a.m. on the floor of the house, with Harris angry that Democrats accused him of being a liar. Rep. Colin Allred was among those who intervened and shouted on the floor, “Are you serious, man? Haven’t you had enough violence for today?”
Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), A member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus who voted to confirm Biden’s election, said the episode was “harrowing” and shows “sentiments remain high”.
“The immediate aftermath of January 6th has in some ways made bipartisan efforts difficult,” Johnson said. “I hope some of the anger and irritation will subside … Because if we are to do good things for this country, Democrats and Republicans have to work together. “
In another example the Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri – the top Republican on the House Budgets Committee – tweeted an email from a Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, who refused to work with him.
Axne’s office later said she has continued to work with Republicans, including those who voted against certification, since Jan. 6, although a spokesman said she was “appalled at the members of Congress who chose to confirm the untruths, which led to a violent uprising. ”
Meanwhile, Republicans are urging their Democratic counterparts to obey Biden’s demands for unity, arguing that demands for expulsion or blackball GOP legislators, along with Trump’s swift impeachment, could poison the well of future bipartisanism.
They point to the Democrats’ urge to punish freshman MP Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) For her previous incendiary and offensive rhetoric, including suspecting a false conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012 a Was joke.
But Democrats counter that they can’t just move on when they say Republicans fueled Trump’s dangerous lies about the elections and put their own lives in danger. These include the actions of GOP leaders: House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries has called House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy an “underboss of organized crime.”
The authorities are investigating whether a GOP legislature played a role in the uprising. While law enforcement didn’t release details on specific members, Democrats were quick to refer to members like freshman MP Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) Who tweeted the speaker’s whereabouts live as rioters stormed the Capitol.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), who regularly faces a barrage of threats against her, sacked Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz in a tweet after signaling that the two could work together on a Congressional investigation into the latest GameStop stock trading.
“I’m happy to be working with Republicans on this issue, which we have in common, but you almost had me murdered three weeks ago so you could expose this problem,” Ocasio-Cortez fired back at Cruz, who was making an effort Senate led challenge Biden’s victory.
Another complication is the potential security threat at the Capitol, which prompted the Democrats to implement new security measures – Metal detectors outside the chamber of the house.
Republicans have complained that the Democrats are targeting their own members, but the Democrats said it was justified after the screening found it Republican Harris tried to put a gun on the ground. They plan to pass a bill next week that will add heavy fines to all Republicans who bypass the metal detector and increase the existing fines for GOP members who refuse to wear masks.
The tensions do not only exist between members of opposing parties: Infighting inside The GOP has reached new heights as the party wrestles with direction in the post-Trump era, leading McCarthy to ask Republicans not to tear themselves apart in public.
Many GOP members of the House of Representatives have turned against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), The No. 3 Republican, to indict Trump. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), A top Trump ally, even traveled to Wyoming this week to fight them.
Of course, there were other heated moments in Congress, including three years ago when the deeply divided Senate turned to bitterness over Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Other members have pointed this out the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But for many, the atmosphere in Congress has never felt so toxic. And interpersonal relationships were already strained amid the pandemic that changed the life and legislation of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“Do I think there have been more difficult times in the history of the Republic? Yes.” Cole said, citing the riots surrounding the Vietnam War and the assassination of national leaders in the 1960s. But he added, “It’s pretty raw.”
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.