House members decry ‘toxic’ atmosphere in Congress among lawmakers

In interviews with more than a dozen members, CNN has heard Democrats and some Republicans say that things are as bad as they can remember, with no sign that things will improve soon, and concerns and concerns come not only from members, but their families as well.

Last week alone, Democrats and two Republicans voted to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, for posting an animated video depicting the murder of fellow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York. Initially, Gosar deleted the video, but retweeted another tweet containing the video just an hour after he was subjected to the loudest reprimand any member of the House of Representatives could receive.

When he took his punishment in the well of the house, he was surrounded by a group of colleagues who rushed to his defense. His leadership did not come to the ground to alert him, but rather attacked the process the Democrats were using.

Rep. Lauren Poipert, a Republican from Colorado, defended Gosar on the grounds by calling some of her fellow progressive Democrats the “jihad squad,” a term she defended for CNN on Friday.

“It is shocking to me that Commander McCarthy stands for eight and a half hours throwing out misinformation about a bill meant for the American people and yet has not uttered a word about the atrocities committed by one of its members by posting a video glorifying the murder of Pennsylvania Representative Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania said: “She is a colleague and threatens violence against the President of the United States.” “I don’t know where the next basement is.”

It’s all part of the challenge members now face in the House of Representatives, and some have chosen to retire rather than put up with more vitriolic behavior.

On the fringes of the house room, metal detectors are still placed at each door, as a reminder of the remaining concerns. An attempt to investigate the root cause of the January 6 attack was politicized and met with resistance from most Republicans. Some even underestimated whether the events of that day were so bad. It is a constant reminder to some members of the state of their workplace.

“January 6th only made matters worse. I was on the floor that day. It was a moment that changed my life forever on a personal level, but it was also a moment that changed Congress,” Rep. Sherry Bustos, Democrat of Illinois, told CNN . “It all started with the persistent unchallenged lies that were amplified up until January 6th by a member of Congress threatening the lives of friends and colleagues.”

In an interview with Representative John Garamendi, a California Democrat, Garamendi’s wife Patricia can be heard in the background during the interview responding with her husband that yes, the threats were as bad as ever. Patricia Garamendi, who works closely with other couples in Congress on the events and provides guidance on how to navigate Congress, agreed to speak with CNN for the story. She said this is the scariest time she can remember for spouses of members who worry not only about members of Congress, but their entire families.

“It robbed you of so much fun,” she said. “The service is tough. Traveling is tough and the problems are tough, but when you worry about your family, it’s tough.” “I mean some kids are taken to school.”

“I’m not running again”

These are just security threats. A massive battle over Covid-19 has exacerbated divisions. A handful of Conservative members regularly challenge the Speaker’s Mask mandate in the House, racking up fines of thousands of dollars while some members publicly admit they are not receiving a vaccination.

Standing on the rungs of the US House of Representatives on Friday, Bustos told CNN that all the bitterness and lies influenced her decision not to run for re-election.

“My internships are there,” she noted. “I always write them five tips and one of those tips is ‘Don’t take it personally.’ I’ve tried to live that in politics. You can’t help but take it personally. All of this contributed to the fact that I would never run again. I want to I love what I do. I want to love who I’m working with. I want to respect the people I work with who have been compromised in ways that I hope will at some point be fixed, but right now I don’t feel like I can fix.”

Some members feel the concern stems from bitter disagreements with the other party, while others say the toxicity spiral has even spread regarding how members within the same party interact with each other. For months, Democratic progressives and moderates have wrestled over how to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a Democrat-only bill to expand the social safety net. But divisions within their ranks threatened both bills and at times resulted in public and targeted blows to the public.

“Poisons right away,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida. “I think there’s a lot of violence between Democrats and Democrats as well as Republican and Democratic divisions. I think it’s not conducive to a healthy legislative environment for colleagues to make these debates both personal and stinging.”

“People here need thicker skin”

In a series of interviews with Republicans, many outright downplayed the divisions or blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for setting the wrong tone when she announced that all members would need to go through metal detectors to get to the House floor after the mutiny.

“I think it’s a consolidation of power in the speaker’s office in the House of Representatives and an abuse of power by the Speaker of the House because she’s controlling one party and she’s completely shutting out minority votes and hiding behind Covid to get that done,” Rep. Kathy McMorris Rogers, a Washington State Republican, told CNN. If the.

Representative Chip Roy, a Texas Republican who called before January 6 to certify the Electoral College results, told CNN that part of the problem is that members haven’t moved from January 6.

“People here need to have thicker skin,” Roy said. “At some point here, you should let some things move.”

Asked if he includes rebellion in the things people need to allow “rolling over,” Roy said “people here have to get thicker in terms of representing people and doing their work and not making everything personal on the floor of the house.”

“I feel safe, but it is very worrying”

But for some members, the threats are too personal.

“Congressman Popper has referred to us as the ‘jihad squad’ on the House floor. What this does is it empowers and inspires people who want to do us harm, to actually go and do that mischief. It’s on the floor of the house throwing out ‘jihad,'” Rep. Jamal Bowman said. “I feel safe, but it’s very concerning that she is speaking that way and we have to respond to that in some way.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who was the subject of Gosar’s animated video, told CNN last week that sometimes it’s impossible to separate the political from the personal, even when she’s tried to build relationships with some Republicans.

“It’s not just because they hate me as a person. In fact, I’ve had a lot of Republicans come to me on the House floor and say ‘I tell people back home that while I don’t agree with you, I think you’re a very good person.’” Ocasio-Cortez said, “Republicans come to me after Sixth day, someone is even crying and feeling guilty about what happened.” “So for some… publicly, this is a performance. But it is also personal because I cannot separate myself from my gender, and I cannot separate myself from how I was born, so their hatred of non-white people, their hatred of women is hatred of me.”

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