Kevin McCarthy got physical on Tuesday with one of the conservative lawmakers who voted to oust him, according to Rep. Tim Burchett, who accused the former speaker of elbowing him in a Capitol hallway.
Burchett told reporters that McCarthy elbowed him in the back as he was speaking with a reporter and that the Tennessee Republican chased after him: “I ran after McCarthy and I said, ‘What’d you do that for?’ He acted like, ‘Oh, I didn’t do anything.'”
Burchett had yelled back: “Hey Kevin, have some guts.” He also called McCarthy a “jerk,” an exchange witnessed by POLITICO.
The Tennessee Republican told reporters after the incident: “He needs to go back to Southern California” and “I can still feel it it … It was a clean shot to the kidney.”
He would not push any effort to censure McCarthy, Burchett said, but he said they could settle differences in “the parking lot” and that “it would be a very short fistfight.” He noted McCarthy still retains a security detail and likened the jab to “a guy who throws a rock over the fence when he’s a kid and runs home and hides behind his mom’s skirt.”
McCarthy denied that he elbowed Burchett to CNN: “I didn’t shove or elbow him, it’s a tight hallway.”
The episode encapsulates the lingering bad blood between the former GOP leader who was ousted from the speakership last month at the hands of Burchett and seven other House Republicans. McCarthy’s allies are convinced that the effort to eject him, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), was largely based on personal grievances, which Gaetz has denied. And this latest episode is a further sign McCarthy is still angry over the episode.
The episode quickly attracted other attention on Capitol Hill, with Gaetz calling the move “weak” and “pathetic.”
“This is wild. McCarthy resorting to pushing people in the halls. What a weak, pathetic, husk of a man,” Gaetz tweeted.
Jordain Carney contributed to this report.