Forget Joe Biden's calls for unity. Members of Congress couldn't be further divided.
Just weeks into the 117th Congress, the bedrock of relationships hasn't been on such shaky ground in more than a generation, with a sense of deep distrust and betrayal that lawmakers worry will linger for years. And those strains could carry long-term effects on an institution where relationships — and reputations — matter more than almost anything else.
"This is a real tension," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who was among the roughly two dozen Democrats barricaded into the chamber during the Jan. 6 riots and later contracted coronavirus after spending hours in a safe room with Republicans who refused to wear masks. "I don't know if that's repairable. It is certainly a massive chasm that exists right now between a large majority of the Republican caucus and all of us Democrats across the ideological spectrum."
The friction is particularly intense in the House, where two-thirds of the GOP conference voted to overturn the election just hours after lawmakers were attacked by a mob that demanded that very action. The position of those 139 members is now threatening to upend decades of relationships in the House, forcing long-time colleagues to work through their raw emotions and palpable anger in the weeks since the attack.
"I've really been struggling with it," added Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who was also in the chamber when rioters breached the building. "I have a hard time interacting with those members right now, especially with those I had a closer relationship with... I'm not going to deny the reality — that I look at them differently now. They're smaller people to me now."
Multiple Democrats said they are privately mulling whether to sever ties completely with those Republicans, as their caucus weighs potential forms of punishment — particularly for those still-unnamed members who House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said gave "aid and comfort" to the insurrectionists.
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