Republican Senator Challenges Union President to Fight During Senate Hearing

Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla (left), and Teamsters’ President Sean O’Brien.

Washington – In a heated exchange during a Senate hearing on labor unions, Republican Senator Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma challenged the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Sean O’Brien, to a physical fight. The confrontation occurred during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, where O’Brien was appearing as a witness.

The tension between Mullin and O’Brien stemmed from an earlier hearing in March, where they had a heated exchange over Mullin’s background as a business owner and O’Brien’s salary as the union chief. During Tuesday’s hearing, Mullin referenced their previous confrontation and accused O’Brien of making inflammatory remarks about him on X.

“I appreciate your demeanor today. It’s quite different. But after you left here, you got pretty excited about the keyboard. In fact, you tweeted at me, one, two, three, four, five times,” Mullin said, holding up printed versions of O’Brien’s posts on X. Mullin then read one of O’Brien’s posts aloud, in which he called Mullin a “greedy CEO,” a “clown,” and a “fraud.”

“‘You know where to find me. Any time, any place, cowboy.’ Sir, this is a time. This is a place,” Mullin said, pointing to the floor in between the dais and the witness table. “If you want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.”

O’Brien responded to Mullin’s challenge by saying, “I’d love to do it right now.” However, the confrontation was quickly defused by the committee chairman, who intervened and asked both men to calm down.

The exchange between Mullin and O’Brien highlighted the deep divisions in American politics and the growing animosity between Republicans and Democrats. It also raised concerns about the level of civility in political discourse and the potential for violence in the political arena.

O’Brien replied: “OK, that’s fine. Perfect.”

“You want to do it now?” Mullin asked.

“I’d love to do it right now,” O’Brien answered.

“Well, stand your butt up, then,” Mullin said.

“You stand your butt up.”

Sen. Markwayne Mullin listens during a Senate HELP Committee hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.

Mullin then rose to his feet. At this point, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the committee, intervened.

“Stop it. You’re a United States senator,” Sanders said, as O’Brien called Mullin a “clown” again. “This is a hearing. And God knows the American people have enough contempt for Congress. Let’s not make it worse.”

The surreal moment came soon after a separate physical confrontation involving lawmakers elsewhere on Capitol Hill. After a meeting of House Republicans, GOP Rep. Tim Burchett said former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy elbowed him in the back, prompting Burchett to chase after him. McCarthy said he did not intentionally hit him.

Mullin’s Senate website notes he is a “former undefeated Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter with a professional record of 5-0” who has been inducted into the Oklahoma Wrestling Hall of Fame.

The Republican senator and labor leader continued their verbal sparring throughout the remaining few minutes of Mullin’s questioning. The two seemed to agree to meet for coffee, but the situation devolved yet again. The exchange ended with Sanders banging his gavel as the two men called each other an “embarrassment” and a “thug.”

After the hearing, Mullin told reporters that the confrontation wasn’t personal and that he doesn’t have “hard feelings” about it. “He just challenged me and I accepted the challenge,” Mullin said.

In a statement, O’Brien said he was “rebuking” Mullin for his “offensive remarks” about the labor movement. “I stand by my words,” O’Brien said. “Mullin’s comments were an insult to every union worker in America.”

The confrontation between Mullin and O’Brien is the latest example of the growing animosity between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The two parties have been at odds over a number of issues, including immigration, healthcare, and climate change. The confrontation is likely to further strain the relationship between the two parties and make it more difficult for them to work together on legislation.

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