The PJ Tatler

VIDEO: Ukrainian Politicians Brawl Outside Parliament Chamber

Not exactly Fight Club, that’s for sure. But these two Ukrainian politicians from fringe parties fight with just about as much skill and enthusiasm as you would expect from members of parliament.

Samopomich (“Self Reliance”) party deputy Yegor Sobolev and Batkivshchyna (“Fatherland”) party deputy Vadim Ivchenko demonstrate pretty good form, but my grandmother could have taken either one.

The gentlemen were suspended for 5 days, presumably because neither one could punch their way out of a paper bag.

To be sure, they are pikers compared to other legislative brawls. Taiwanese parliament sessions should be made into a reality show considering how often fisticuffs break out in that chamber.

You almost wish we had such excitement in our own legislature. In fact, we once did. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, there were several notable brawls, including one involving about 30 members of Congress in 1858:

The most infamous floor brawl in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives erupted as Members debated the Kansas Territory’s pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution late into the night of February 5-6. Shortly before 2 a.m., Pennsylvania Republican Galusha Grow and South Carolina Democrat Laurence Keitt exchanged insults, then blows. “In an instant the House was in the greatest possible confusion,” the Congressional Globe reported. More than 30 Members joined the melee. Northern Republicans and Free Soilers joined ranks against Southern Democrats. Speaker James Orr, a South Carolina Democrat, gaveled furiously for order and then instructed Sergeant-at-Arms Adam J. Glossbrenner to arrest noncompliant Members. Wading into the “combatants,” Glossbrenner held the House Mace high to restore order. Wisconsin Republicans John “Bowie Knife” Potter and Cadwallader Washburn ripped the hairpiece from the head of William Barksdale, a Democrat from Mississippi. The melee dissolved into a chorus of laughs and jeers, but the sectional nature of the fight powerfully symbolized the nation’s divisions.

Members routinely came armed to the House chamber, giving life to the saying “An armed populace is a polite populace.”

Of course, the most notorious incident of violence that occurred during that time was the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by Rep. Preston Brooks. Sumner had insulted Brooks’ kinsman and the South Carolina hot head caught the Massachusetts senator sitting at his chair in the Senate chamber with his back turned. Sumner, a leading light of the nascent GOP, was never the same after the beating. The writing was on the wall that a civil war was in the offing when hundreds of southerners sent Brooks canes, many of them saying “hit him again.”

The last reference to a House or Senate brawl I could find comes to us courtesy of the Senate historian:

On February 22, 1902, John McLaurin, South Carolina’s junior senator, raced into the Senate Chamber and pronounced that state’s senior senator, Ben Tillman, guilty of “a willful, malicious, and deliberate lie.” Standing nearby, Tillman spun around and punched McLaurin squarely in the jaw. The chamber exploded in pandemonium as members struggled to separate both members of the South Carolina delegation. In a long moment, it was over, but not without stinging bruises both to bystanders and to the Senate’s sense of decorum.

Although Tillman and McLaurin had once been political allies, the relationship had recently cooled. Both were Democrats, but McLaurin had moved closer to the Republicans, who then controlled Congress, the White House, and a lot of South Carolina patronage. When McLaurin changed his position to support Republicans on a controversial treaty, Tillman’s rage erupted. With McLaurin away from the chamber, he had charged that his colleague had succumbed to “improper influences.”

On February 28, 1902, the Senate censured both men and added to its rules the provision that survives today as part of Rule XIX: “No senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

As for possible matches today, Ted Cruz vs. Chuck Schumer might draw some interest. Both are feisty sorts and probably hate each other anyway. In the House, it wouldn’t be GOP vs. Dem. It would be Tea Party vs. Establishment Republicans. How about Justin Amash vs. Boehner? The speaker is getting along in years but is a fairly big man and could probably handle himself.

Who do you think would match up well in the House and Senate? Leave your suggestions in the comments.