Can’t we all just get along? In Congress, that’s not always the best politics.
Take one Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) of Florida – who doubles as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee – and Rep. Allen West (R) of Florida, a tea party star of the freshman class. Both have big, brash personalities and districts that abut one another in suburban Fort Lauderdale.
In fact, as best we can tell, Congressman West lives in Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s district – which is legal, and which means he’s a constituent of hers, and not his own representative in Congress. He acknowledged his out-of-district residential status to the South Florida Sun Sentinel last September during the campaign, and “it doesn't appear that West has moved since his election last year,” the Miami New Times reported Wednesday. At press time, his office had not returned a call requesting clarification.
But we digress... Wasserman Schultz offended West’s sensibilities Tuesday when she went after “the gentleman from Florida” on the House floor for supporting the now-passed “cut, cap, and balance” legislation, which requires deep cuts in federal spending. She noted that West represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as does she, and “is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a member from south Florida.”
She also complained that the legislation “slashes Medicaid and critical investments essential to winning the future in favor of protecting tax breaks for Big Oil, millionaires, and companies who ship American jobs overseas.”
Standard rhetorical fare, especially for a national party chair. But West took offense, and turned the dial up a few notches.
“You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives,” West said in an e-mail to Wasserman Schultz, which he copied to members of the House leadership. “If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up.”
West was especially incensed that she attacked him after he had left the House floor.
His final point: “You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!”
But fear not. Turns out it is likely a win-win for both members. On Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising letter denouncing West’s “hate-filled screed” and asking for donations to defeat him and his ilk. West is also fundraising off the altercation, asking his supporters for $25 donations so he can stand up against “the vicious attack from the Democratic National Party.”
No word yet on how much has come in, but anything that gets the partisan juices flowing is usually good for the bank account. Even if it’s not so good for Congress’s image.