Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday slammed the near-brawl between GOP Sen. Markwayne Mullin (Okla.) and International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, calling the encounter “pathetic.”
Asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper if he has seen a time like this before, Sanders said, “Well, it’s pretty pathetic. I mean we have a United States senator challenging….a member of the panel who is the head of one of the larger unions in America, which has just negotiated a very good contract for their workers.”
Sanders’s comments come hours after he stepped in during a fierce back-and-forth between Mullin, a former mixed martial arts fighter, and O’Brien in a committee hearing, after the Oklahoma Republican challenged the Teamsters official to a fight on the spot.
During a hearing held by the Democratic-led Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Tuesday, Mullin read aloud O’Brien’s posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, where he called the congressman a “clown” and a “fraud.”
“Sir, this is a time, this is a place. You want to run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults, we can finish it here,” Mullin said during the hearing.
“OK, that’s fine. Perfect,” O’Brien shot back.
“You want to do it now?” Mullin asked. “Stand your butt up then.”
“You stand your butt up,” O’Brien responded, prompting Mullin to stand up from his chair.
Sanders, who chairs the HELP Committee, then stepped in, telling Mullin, “Hold it. No, no, no, sit down. Sit down! You’re a United States senator, sit down.”
Cross-talk continued before Mullin tried to challenge O’Brien to a real cage match with proceeds going to charity, prompting Sanders to grab the mic and try to redirect the conversation.
“And that’s why, you know, the American people are getting sick and tired of what goes on here in Congress,” Sanders told Tapper. “What that hearing was about as a matter of fact — by the way might be nice for the media to pay attention to really what the hearing was about — is that workers all over this country are standing up and fighting back against corporate greed.”
“That’s what the hearing was about, not you know, a senator getting into a fight with a union leader,” Sanders said.
O’Brien, along with United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain and Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-Communication Workers of America, were featured speakers for the HELP Committee’s hearing on how unions are improving the lives of working families.
O’Brien helped lead the Teamsters to a tentative agreement with the United Parcel Service (UPS) last summer, just days before their contracts were set to expire.
Calling it “a good contract,” Sanders argued rebuilding the “disappearing middle class” means workers should be joining unions and “taking on” large corporations.
Mullin later said he was trying to expose O’Brien as a “thug” after the Teamsters leader called Mullin a “greedy CEO,” following a previous HELP Committee meeting in March, to which Mullin told him to “shut his mouth.”
The Oklahoma senator did not apologize when later asked about the incident, claiming he was responding to the union leader calling him out on social media.
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