WASHINGTON ― Reps. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) got into a physical altercation Tuesday inside the Capitol basement.
As the two were leaving a Republican meeting ahead of a key government funding vote in the afternoon, McCarthy passed Burchett and, according to the Tennessee lawmaker, elbowed him square in the back.
“I can still feel it, believe it or not,” Burchett told HuffPost about an hour after the incident. “It was a clean shot to the kidney.”
An NPR reporter who witnessed the moment described it as a shove by McCarthy. Burchett then accosted the former speaker.
“Hey Kevin, why’d you walk by me and elbow me in the back?” Burchett said, according to an audio recording by Washington Post reporter Marianna Sotomayor, who was interviewing McCarthy at the time.
“I did not elbow you in the back,” McCarthy said, laughing.
“You are so pathetic,” Burchett said.
“Thank you, Tim,” McCarthy said.
A spokesperson for McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost. The congressman later told a reporter that he didn’t do it: “If I kidney punched someone, they would be on the ground.”
The bad blood between the two men is well known ― Burchett was one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy from the speaker’s office last month.
Burchett said he wouldn’t do anything to retaliate against McCarthy.
“He’s just a bully with $17 million and a security detail,” Burchett told reporters. “I’m not gonna be fighting him or anything. It’s not gonna be a fist fight. It would be a very short fist fight, I can tell you that.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who had led the effort to challenge McCarthy’s leadership, on Tuesday called the California Republican “a weak, pathetic, husk of a man.”
The confrontation came as Republicans had just wrapped up a tense meeting about plans for the House to vote on a government funding bill in the afternoon. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is moving a resolution without any spending cuts or conservative policy measures attached, meaning it will likely pass with lots of Democratic support.
Conservative Republicans are furious about the bill, but have not indicated that they would throw Johnson out like they did McCarthy.
After Burchett left, Sotomayor asked McCarthy if there was a double standard at play. McCarthy, however, said nothing.