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Tensions among the Republicans in the House seem to be at a boiling point

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The House of Representatives voted to avoid a government shutdown yesterday.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yeah. The fractured Republican majority had to work with Democrats to manage that basic goal, and that has exposed more tensions in the majority. At one point, two Republican lawmakers collided in a hallway. Tim Burchett of Tennessee accused former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of shoving him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

TIM BURCHETT: What kind of chicken move is that? You're pathetic, man.

MARTÍNEZ: Reporters were watching this incident, including NPR congressional mixed martial arts correspondent - oh, excuse me - congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Claudia, what did you see?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, A. I was interviewing Burchett when I saw McCarthy and his detail come by. It seemed that McCarthy shoved into Burchett, and a chase ensued. And that confrontation is what you just heard. And this is part of the same struggles we're seeing play out with Republicans in terms of the differences, the bitterness. Earlier this year, the same struggles we saw during the speakership fight - these are all still there.

Before I shared the news yesterday of what I saw between McCarthy and Burchett, House Speaker Mike Johnson yesterday talked about these pressures they're facing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: This will allow everybody to go home for a couple of days for Thanksgiving, everybody cool off. Members have been here for, as Leader Scalise said, for 10 weeks. This place is a pressure cooker.

GRISALES: So this pressure cooker is something I've been tracking recently. One reason why is that it's rooted in the concern that tensions have been so high that they could lead to altercations like the one I saw play out right in front of me. And even passing this temporary funding measure to avert a government shutdown yesterday does not erase the very, very difficult differences that remain.

MARTÍNEZ: What is Kevin McCarthy saying about this?

GRISALES: He's denying this happened. Later, he held a press conference to defend himself. He's insisted that it was not intentional, that it all happened in a narrow, crowded hallway where it's difficult to pass through when interviews are happening. But we should note this hallway was wide enough for McCarthy and his detail to get through. Burchett and I had moved to the side, so you would not expect any pushing, shoving or elbowing in terms of what played out yesterday. And McCarthy has been accused of this before. Former Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger noted something similar happened to him when he was in Congress in a recent book he just released.

MARTÍNEZ: Is it the House or the Octagon? My goodness.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTÍNEZ: I mean, it seems like it's that bad. OK. So the...

GRISALES: It's wild (ph).

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. The temporary funding measure - that passed the House. What's expected to happen in the Senate?

GRISALES: So the Senate is expected to take this up next. We're expecting a strong bipartisan vote there as well. So Congress is on track to avert a shutdown. As for the House, even as Johnson saw this major victory yesterday - there was a bipartisan vote of 336-95 - there's still a long ways to go before repairing these ultimate tensions that linger here. And a new shutdown threat is now pushed off to early next year, but both chambers are still facing the prospect of coming up with permanent funding plans. And meanwhile, House conservatives keep taking down spending bills. It undermines the argument that they'll get this done with the extra time. And some members are making vague threats that could include ousting Johnson if he keeps going down this path of bipartisan votes. So the anger here is very present. There's fights in the Senate as well. So just the overall toxicity here is not great in terms of going into next year's election year.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Keep your head on a swivel, Claudia.

GRISALES: I will.

MARTÍNEZ: Please.

GRISALES: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
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