A GOP lawmaker who was at the centre of an awkward clash on the House floor is stepping down from a major committee after issuing an apology.
Mike Rogers of Alabama was seen being physically restrained by a colleague, Richard Hudson, as he spoke to Matt Gaetz on the floor of the House last Friday. The shocking moment ended after just a few seconds, but the fallout is apparently continuing.
On Monday, Mr Rogers announced that he was stepping down from the GOP steering committee, an all-Republican group that determines committee assignments for the GOP caucus in the lower chamber. His decision comes as a key player in the anti-McCarthy rebellion, Byron Donalds, was appointed as his apparent replacement.
Mr Rogers confirmed the news to Politico on Monday, while noting that his decision was not yet finalised and would likely take place later in the week.
His confrontation with Mr Gaetz was one of the most widely viewed moments of the explosive speaker’s race, which concluded just after midnight Saturday morning after 15 rounds of voting. No party had seen their top choice for speaker lose on the first ballot in 100 years.
The voting was marked by sharp-tongued words in the press as well as on the House floor, where both parties traded verbal abuse with each other as well as a small group of GOP holdouts opposed to the swift election of Kevin McCarthy to the role.
The confrontation in question occurred near the end of the pitched floor battle, and ended with Mr Rogers being grabbed by the face and hauled away by his fellow congressman.
Another GOP representative who was seated next to Mr Gaetz for the exchange told reporters afterwards that he thought he might have had to “drop” Mr Rogers if a full fistfight broke out.
“People shouldn’t be drinking, especially when you’re a redneck, on the House floor,” the Republican congressman said of his colleague to CNN after the near-brawl.
“I would drop him like a bag of dirt,” he added. “Nobody’s gonna put their hands on me. Nobody’s gonna threaten me.”
Mr Rogers would later issue an apology to Mr Gaetz and acknowledge the incident on Twitter.
“@RepMattGaetz and I have a long and productive working relationship, that I am sure will continue. I regret that I briefly lost my temper on the House Floor Friday evening and appreciate Matt’s kind understanding,” wrote Mr Rogers.
The exact words Mr Rogers said to Mr Gaetz before he was pulled away are still unknown. Regardless, it has been reported by multiple outlets that he was threatening to use his position on the steering committee to punish rebel lawmakers with reduced or unfavourable committee assignments.
But the departure from steering is not likely to mark a real disgrace for the congressman; he is still set to chair the House Armed Services Committee in the new Congress.
It was a bizarre end to an already chaotic week; many political observers expect a similar kind of chaos to follow the GOP’s House caucus throughout 2023 and beyond thanks to the extremely slim majority that their party holds in the chamber.