When a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was among a group of a few dozen lawmakers and staff on the floor of the U.S. House, feet away from insurrectionists pounding at the chamber doors in an attempt to violently overthrow the federal government.
In the nick of time, that group was rushed to a secure room, where they waited out the rest of attack. Hours later, the House returned to the same place to finish the job of certifying the Electoral College results, where Connolly watched as 121 of his Republican colleagues forged ahead to vote in favor of overturning the 2020 election results—precisely what the mob was threatening Congress to do.
For the Virginia Democrat, and many of his colleagues, that is a vote, and a day, those Republicans cannot come back from. “I don’t see how we return to business as normal,” Connolly told The Daily Beast. “You aren't just a colleague on the other side whom I oppose politically—you’re someone willing to associate yourself with a threat to my life, my staff’s life, and my family. That changes relationships, radically. And I don’t know how going forward we’re going to repair that breach.”
As lawmakers continue to process what happened on Jan. 6—and learn more details about the terrifying scope of the insurrectionists’ plans—many Democratic offices are actively debating how they might ever be able to work with those colleagues who voted to object to the election on the same lies and conspiracies that fueled Wednesday’s violence.
But some lawmakers have already seen enough. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), told The Daily Beast she and her staff do not intend to reach out to the offices of any of the Electoral College objectors to collaborate on legislation moving forward. “It’s up to them to seek forgiveness, to say, ‘I got it grievously wrong, I literally voted against our country and our Constitution and against my oath,’” said Dean.
“We cannot go back to business as usual,” Dean continued. “We cannot turn a blind eye on the traitorous actions we saw. We can't say, let’s reach our arms across the aisle.”
Another, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), said he would only work with these Republicans as a matter of last resort. “The only way I’ll do it is if I don’t see an alternative, and I have to get something done for the people I represent,” he said. “When we put together a list of cosponsors we’re seeking, their names go to the bottom of the list.”
Even through the lowest moments of the Donald Trump era, Capitol Hill has been a place that runs on collegiality. When the cameras are off and committee sessions gavel out, members are often chummier than they let on. There are many genuine friendships and solid working relationships across the aisle; even the most fire-breathing lawmakers work to secure the precious “bipartisan” label on their bills, and ideological opposites frequently work together on low-profile legislative items that are more practical than polarizing.
But the events of Jan. 6, say Democratic lawmakers and aides, could rupture the Capitol’s normal functioning for weeks, months, or years into the future. The widespread pain, anger, and disappointment at the 121 House Republicans and seven Senate Republicans who voted to object the night of Jan. 6 figures to extend into every aspect of congressional business.
Members of the objection caucus may see themselves iced out of working on legislation with members of the Democratic majorities in both chambers. In the Senate, Democrats want to see the leaders of the objection effort, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), removed from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Off Capitol Hill, major forces in corporate America, like Dow Chemical, have announced they will no longer donate to the campaigns of lawmakers who objected.
Both chambers may soon see votes on resolutions to formally censure, or even expel, those members who were most closely associated with Wednesday’s riot. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) has a bill to formally censure Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who spoke at the rally outside the White House on Jan. 6 and declared to the crowd that it was the day to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” In a lengthy, bizarre statement released on Tuesday, Brooks said he was not actually advocating violence.
And Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a first-term lawmaker, introduced a resolution to expel any member who voted to object to the Electoral College, citing section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a post-Civil War statute barring those who engaged in “insurrection” against the U.S. from serving in Congress.
A supporter of that push, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), laughed when asked by The Daily Beast if he’d work with any of the Republican objectors again. “Will I work with those who tried to overturn the election? I want them first not to be seated under the 14th Amendment, section 3,” he said.
In the Senate, which has even more of a reputation for cross-aisle bonhomie than the less exclusive House, the calls for expulsion are coming from Democrats who before the riot were the most likely to work across the political aisle. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), known for his close ties with Republicans, issued that call on Thursday. Asked if Coons would work with either of the senators—both are colleagues on the Judiciary Committee—again, a spokesperson for the Delaware senator referred The Daily Beast to his call for their resignation.
Unlike Cruz, who has made a habit of alienating Democrats and Republicans alike, Hawley has forged some alliances with Democrats on economic issues. In December, he and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) led a push for Congress to approve more generous direct stimulus checks as part of a COVID-19 relief bill. A spokesperson for Sanders did not respond to The Daily Beast on whether he would join Hawley in that effort again. But a lead House proponent of the $2,000 checks, Sanders ally Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), called on Wednesday for Hawley’s expulsion from office.
Still, many Democrats on Capitol Hill have not been eager to commit to cutting ties with some Republicans just yet. The offices of a dozen Democratic senators who have co-sponsored bills authored by Cruz and Hawley did not respond to inquiries from The Daily Beast over whether they would do so again.
In the House, aides and lawmakers in both parties have looked at the list of Republicans who voted to object—which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the party’s conference—and were stunned to find certain names. “My anger toward these folks, for what they did, it's because they know better,” said Kildee. “They are not that stupid. And they cannot believe that we all are so stupid as to think they actually believe the things they’ve been saying.”
But even the most die-hard Trump supporters in the GOP, like Brooks, were not seen by some Democratic colleagues as capable of going through with the vote. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), a progressive from northern California, was actually friendly with Brooks. They used to play ping-pong from time to time.
“I’ll tell you, as extreme and crazy as I know his politics are, I’ve had a friendly relationship with him these last eight years,” Huffman told The Daily Beast. “Knowing what I know about what he has done, I cannot look that guy in the eye. I don’t want to have another word with him. I want him to be expelled.”
For others, said Huffman, “I don’t want to say in absolute terms I won’t work with any of these people ever again, but it’s going to be hard to have normal relationships with them.”