December 6, 2023


Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma instructed Sean O’Brien, the president of the Worldwide Brotherhood of Teamsters and a Medford native, to “stand your butt up.”

Sean O’Brien, Normal President of the Worldwide Brotherhood of Teamsters, testifies throughout a Senate Well being, Training, Labor and Pensions Committee listening to on unions on November 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Photographs

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional listening to devolved into an offended confrontation between a senator and a witness on Tuesday after Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma challenged Sean O’Brien, the president of the Worldwide Brotherhood of Teamsters, to “stand your butt up” and settle longstanding variations proper there within the room.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate panel that was holding the listening to, yelled at Mullin to take a seat down after he challenged O’Brien to a combat. Mullin had stood up from his seat on the dais and appeared to start out taking his ring off.

“That is the time, that is the place,” Mullin instructed O’Brien after studying a sequence of vital tweets O’Brien had despatched about him prior to now. “If you wish to run your mouth, we might be two consenting adults. We will end it right here.”

The 2 males by no means got here head to head within the listening to room. However they hurled insults at one another for round six minutes as Sanders repeatedly banged his gavel and tried to chop them off. Sanders, a longtime union ally, pleaded with them to concentrate on the financial points that have been the main target of the Senate Well being, Training, Labor and Pensions Committee listening to, which Sanders was holding to overview how unions assist working households.

“You’re a United States senator!” Sanders yelled at Mullin at one level.

Mullin, a frequent critic of union management, has sparred earlier than with the union head. Earlier this yr, O’Brien posted repeatedly about Mullin on X, previously often called Twitter, calling him a “moron” and “stuffed with s—” after Mullin criticized O’Brien at a listening to for what Mullin mentioned have been intimidation techniques.

In one other social media publish, which Mullin learn aloud at Tuesday’s listening to, O’Brien appeared to problem Mullin to a combat. “You already know the place to seek out me. Anyplace, Anytime cowboy,” O’Brien had posted.

The change escalated from there, with Mullin telling O’Brien that “that is the place” and asking if he needed to do it proper now.

“I’d like to do it proper now,” O’Brien mentioned.

Mullin replied: “Nicely, stand your butt up then.”

“You stand your butt up,” O’Brien shot again.

When Mullin obtained up from his chair, showing prepared for a combat, Sanders yelled at him to take a seat down, banged his gavel a number of occasions and instructed each of them to cease speaking.

“It is a listening to, and God is aware of the American individuals have sufficient contempt for Congress, let’s not make it worse,” Sanders mentioned.

As Mullin endured, O’Brien retorted: “You challenged me to a cage match, performing like a twelve yr outdated schoolyard bully.”

The 2 traded offended insults for a number of extra minutes — every referred to as the opposite a “thug” — with Mullin at one level suggesting they combat for charity at an occasion subsequent spring, repeating a proposal he made earlier this yr on social media.

O’Brien declined, as an alternative suggesting they meet for espresso and work out their variations. Mullin accepted, however the two saved shouting at one another till the following senator, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, began her questioning by speaking over them.

After the listening to, Sanders referred to as the change “absurd.”

“We have been there to be speaking about, and did speak about, the disaster dealing with working households on this nation, the rising hole between the very wealthy and all people else and the position that unions are enjoying in bettering the usual of dwelling of the American individuals,” Sanders mentioned. “We’re not there to speak about cage preventing.”

Requested later in regards to the skirmish, Senate Republican Chief Mitch McConnell demurred. “It’s very tough to regulate the habits of all people who’s within the constructing,” McConnell mentioned. “I don’t view that as my accountability.”

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota mentioned that references have been made to the back-and-forth in a GOP convention assembly after the listening to. However he mentioned that nobody ought to take it too significantly.

“It’s a dynamic place,” Cramer mentioned of the Senate. “We don’t put on the white wigs anymore.”


Related Press author Kevin Freking contributed to this report.