After he had to be stopped from starting a physical fight in the United States Senate on Tuesday, Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) doubled down on his threats toward Teamster President Sean O’Brien, saying he was still willing to fight him and blaming so-called “woke” politics for why an altercation didn’t happen in the supposed “upper house” of Congress.
While lawmakers in Congress often showcase their disdain for one another, and even toward witnesses in committee hearings, rarely does anything escalate to the point of something physical. The last known fistfight to occur in the Senate, for example, happened in 1902, demonstrating just how infrequent such altercations are.
Mullin and O’Brien confronted each other during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee meeting on Tuesday. When Mullin received use of the microphone, he read tweets from O’Brien, in which the Teamster suggested that he wanted to fight the senator at any point.
“Sir, this is a time, this is a place,” Mullin said, suggesting the two should fight right then and there. When Mullin stood up, seemingly getting ready to make things physical after a short back-and-forth between the two, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) interrupted, calling for them to stop and chiding Mullin directly.
“Oh, hold it. Is that your solution?” Sanders, the chair of the committee, scolded his Senate GOP colleague. “No, no, sit down. Sit down. You’re a United States Senator. Act like it.”
Although he did sit down after Sanders’s admonishment, Mullin doesn’t appear to want to take Sanders’s advice to heart. Appearing on Fox News and speaking to host Sean Hannity Tuesday night, Mullin provided dubious excuses for why he didn’t fight O’Brien in the Senate, blaming “political correctness” and so-called “woke” politics for why he couldn’t, rather than the fact that such an action would be considered deeply unbecoming for a senator and likely violate decorum rules.
During a subsequent podcast interview, Mullin, who is a former college wrestler and MMA fighter, also suggested he’d still be willing to fight O’Brien, utilizing unusual fighting styles — including biting, often considered by professional fighters to be a “dirty” form of combat — to best the Teamster president.
“I’m not afraid of biting. I will bite,” Mullin said.
When questioned by the befuddled podcast host if he really would, Mullin reiterated his willingness to stoop to such low levels.
“I’ll bite 100%. In a fight, I’m gonna bite. I’ll do anything. I’m not above it,” Mullin said. “And I don’t care where I bite by the way. It just is gonna be a bite.”
Mullin’s attempt to start a fight in the Senate halls came on the same day as a physical altercation occurred between two Republicans in the House. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), the former speaker of the House, reportedly elbowed Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tennessee) in the back and continued walking down the hallways of Congress as if nothing had occurred. Burchett, who was one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy from the speakership, chased him down and questioned McCarthy over why he had hit him.
McCarthy denied doing so, even though an NPR journalist had witnessed the altercation happen.
Threats of violence and actual physical altercations emanating from Republicans this week are perhaps not to be unexpected, as a growing number of Republicans in the U.S. have indicated that they support the use of violence to help achieve their political ends. According to a Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll published late last month, fully 33 percent of Republican voters have said they believe political violence is justified in order to “put the country back on track.”
The poll also found that support for former President Donald Trump — whose words inspired a mob of his loyalists to attack the U.S. Capitol in January 2021, and who, during past presidential campaigns, encouraged his supporters to physically fight dissenters — directly correlated to support for violence to achieve political goals. Two in five (41 percent) respondents in the PRRI poll who held a favorable view of Trump said they would back using violence to “correct” the country’s trajectory, while nearly half (46 percent) of those who wrongly believe the 2020 election was stolen said the same.
Notably, Mullin is himself a staunch supporter of Trump, being one of the first lawmakers in Congress to endorse Trump’s 2024 presidential election bid.
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