Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) are politically polar opposites, but in one of the “only happens in Washington” situations, the two men formed a friendly relationship after serving nearly a decade. work together on policy and on committees.
“We found some bills that needed to be done together. Get along pretty well,” Huffman told The Daily Beast. “You know, we respect each other.”
Adding the close friendship between the members will “add a lot” to the work.
But as time went on, Gosar entered an “irreversible downward spiral,” Huffman said. And that has prompted the California congressman to reevaluate their relationship.
On January 6, 2021, Gosar was one of the 147 Republicans voted against certifying the 2020 election results, citing unfounded claims of voter fraud. In the months since, he has been censored and removed from his committee duties because share an anime video about his killing of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Now, Huffman wants nothing to do with him.
“He was completely toxic, and to be honest, he was not someone I or any of my other colleagues could even converse with,” Huffman said.
Huffman and Gosar’s co-worker relationship was one of several bipartisan relationships to fracture over the past year. Once-true friendships had grown into nods of acknowledgement in the hallways. Close relationships have completely fallen into disdain and distrust. And the two parties seem – both legally and personally – further apart than ever. The events of January 6 and the toxic environment in Congress that followed left many members unable to imagine a fix.
“We’re losing the space where we can actually talk to each other… This is not the kind of environment that’s conducive to the kind of debate about important issues that we should have,” Representative Andy said. Kim (D-NJ) said.
But it’s not just friendship. Congressional delegations, groups of members from the same state that tend to get together when natural disasters strike or about issues that directly affect their regions, also become tense.
Representative Jason Crow (D-CO) saw this dynamic unfold in his own delegation, led by freshman representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) capturing the whole “Stop the Steal” and other fiction produced by Trump.
Boebert was not just another Trump-endorsed member who voted against the certification results; she is at the forefront of GOP efforts to cast doubt on the 2020 election and defame Democrats. In December, she drew attention from Democrats for making a “joke” of a Muslim taboo nature about Congressman Ilhan Omar (D-MN), whom the leadership Republicans refused to condemn.
“Her rhetoric poses very direct dangers to the people I represent… So that was definitely a challenge,” Crow said.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) told The Daily Beast on January 6 that also strained relationships with his conservative colleagues. “It has definitely changed my relationship with members of my congressional delegation.”
“We had eight out of nine Republicans from Pennsylvania who voted against Pennsylvania on January 6. That’s inexcusable. It was infuriating,” Casey added.
In other parts of the Capitol, relationships that were uncomfortable to begin with have turned openly hostile.
Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) in January 2021 move her office away from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene after Greene allegedly overrated the Missouri congresswoman in the hallway. Not only Bush Greene shunned. The Georgia freshman also posted an anti-transgender sign outside her office against Congresswoman Marie Newman (D-IL), the mother of a transgender daughter who raised the pro-transgender flag.
There is other physical evidence of fractured relationships, but less ominous are the magnetometers outside the House chamber, installed because of Democratic concerns that their Republican colleagues will carry weapons. to the House floor.
As Congress gathered to celebrate January 6, hugs and heaps of words of support among members supplanted any hostility — but only one sitting Republican showed up.
Representative Liz Cheney (WY) and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, stand alone in the Republican aisle during a moment dedicated to victims of the uprising a year ago.
But the members claim to have some pocket money.
Some members noted regretful moments throughout 2021, like the bipartisan infrastructure working group — a 10-member group of all parties — that Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) ) said to have allowed members to develop “some very good relationships”. Crow said he’s grown closer to Republicans who put country over partisan. “We are basically from a very similar place,” he said.
Congressman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) said the congressional softball game in 2021 is a political-free space where everyone tries to put differences aside.
“You show up on the elementary school field and play softball at seven o’clock in the morning and you’re in your prime. You’re wearing sweets, you’re not wearing makeup, you’re barely combing your hair…” Bustos said. “I know while I have teammates who didn’t vote to certify the November 2020 election results, we’re just not talking about it.”
Huffman said this year’s congressional baseball game has a similar effect, with everyone going to be happy and having fun. President Joe Biden attended, visiting both teams. But even there, divisions seeped in.
During the event, Republicans invited retired major baseball player Darrell Evans to their field, two Democratic sources confirmed to The Daily Beast.
After the game, Democratic representatives Andy Levin and Dan Kildee, both Michiganders, attempted to chat with Evans, the two-time All Star and World Series champion who has spent most of his career in Detroit. Tigers, but were instead caught with profanities- full of angry remarks and comments about Democrats.
“I think that’s a real example, you know, not just the fact that there are people out there who carry that kind of hate. We know that,” said Huffman, who played in the game. “But then our Republican colleagues will put them in a congressional baseball game and make them loose. That’s not okay. ”
Especially for the freshman members, this post-revolt Congress was all they had ever known.
Representative Sara Jacobs (D-CA), a first-term lawmaker, told The Daily Beast that her freshman class is one of the only classes that does new member orientation in a bipartisan manner. . And because of COVID, freshmen mostly only know each other at the beginning of their term, she said.
Jacobs says the experience has allowed her to build relationships across the aisle, relationships that have served her in legislative and committee roles. But the congresswoman said it was “certainly difficult” to see some of the Republicans she knows side with those who refuse to vote on January 6.
“I am very disappointed that we are all back from the attack and they are still voting against the certification of the election. It’s been really hard and it definitely affects everything going forward,” she said.
Bustos hopes Congress’ incoming freshman class – who will be elected in 2022 – will have a fresh start next year. They will not have had such direct experiences with the events of January 6. “I hope they bring new energy…and a fresh start so that Congress can hopefully look into the future, ” she said.
Huffman wasn’t sure a freshman class would help.
“Every new class is an opportunity for that. However, the unfortunate reality is that Trump’s grip on the Republican Party and the Republican primary process is so solid that we only get more radical members with each new class,” he said. he said.
Huffman continued, “So if that model holds true, and I have no reason to think it won’t, the next class of Republicans will be even Trumpier.”