The top Republican in the US House of Representatives faced calls to apologize or resign Sunday after joking about hitting Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the head with a gavel.
It was the latest round in a nasty spat between the Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Pelosi, the chamber’s top Democrat.
Last week Pelosi called her Republican counterpart a “moron” for opposing mask mandates to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as the Delta variant causes a surge in cases in America.
At a fundraising dinner Saturday night in Tennessee, McCarthy spoke with optimism about prospects for his party retaking the House in mid-term elections next year.
And he went on to joke that – should he become speaker – he would struggle to resist striking Pelosi with the gavel that comes with the job.
“It will be hard not to hit her with it but I will bang it down,” McCarthy said, according to a Washington Post reporter who was at the event.
Democrats pounced on McCarthy Sunday.
“Don’t you think America has had enough political violence?,” tweeted Representative Ted Lieu of California.
“You need to apologize for your statement, or resign,” Lieu wrote.
Fellow California Representative Eric Swalwell said McCarthy “needs to resign,” tweeting: “America has suffered enough violence around politics.”
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) August 1, 2021
Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan insisted McCarthy apologize right away.
“Language like this led to violence and death at the United States Capitol. @GOPLeader knows his words carry weight,” Dingell said.
She appeared to be referring to then-President Donald Trump’s fiery language in a January 6 speech to a crowd that went on to overrun the US Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s election win.
Pelosi was a main target of the mob as it rampaged through the Capitol, in an insurrection that left five people dead.