Source: San Diego Union-Tribune. 17 June 1994.
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — A tense moment during a House debate brought new meaning to the legislative expression “floor fight.”
During a drawn-out discussion of spending legislation, Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-San Diego, took offense Wednesday night when the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee questioned Republican motives and threatened to retaliate.
Cunningham then challenged Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin to, in effect, step across a line.
At issue was legislation providing $23.3 billion for a variety of Treasury Department and Postal Service programs.
The incident began when Rep. Harris Fawell, R-Ill., offered an amendment to strike $15.8 million for the proposed construction of new courthouses in Georgia, Ohio and Texas.
After a long debate, an angry Obey took the floor and said he found it “quaint . . . but not all surprising that the only objections made to projects . . . are to projects in the districts of Democrats.”
Obey then warned that “there are going to be a lot of targets on the Republican side of the aisle” when future bills come to the floor.
The remark drew a harsh response from Cunningham, who said: “I do not like to be threatened, and if the individual wants to threaten, we can handle that real good. . . . If the gentleman wants to do something, he can just come right over here.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., quickly interceded, suggesting, “Why do we not keep the debate on the issue? We will all be better off.”
“I agree,” Cunningham replied.
Fawell’s amendment later failed by a vote of 271-145.
Afterward, Cunningham and Obey met briefly on the House floor.
“There were no more threats, and I wouldn’t say either one apologized,” Frank Collins, a spokesman for Cunningham, said yesterday. Obey had no comment.
While debates often turn heated in Congress, it is rare for members to come to blows. The last time was in March 1985 when Rep. Bob Dorman, R-Garden Grove, grabbed then-Rep. Tom Downey, D-N.Y., by the necktie during a shoving match at the rear of the House chamber.
The incident began when Downey confronted Dorman over a quote calling Downey “a draft-dodging wimp.”
Copyright © 1994
Union-Tribune Publishing Co.