WASHINGTON — A Texas GOP congressman says if the three female Republican senators who oppose a bill repealing Obamacare were men from South Texas, he might challenge them to a duel.
"The fact that the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do is just absolutely repugnant to me," U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, told his local radio host Bob Jones on Friday.
"Some of the people that are opposed to this, there are female senators from the Northeast ... If it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style."
In 1804, Aaron Burr famously shot and killed his political adversary, Alexander Hamilton, in a New Jersey duel.
Farenthold was referencing U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to push through a pure Obamacare repeal bill that lacked a replacement, after months of trouble to pass a repeal-and-replace measure, those three senators effectively ended his efforts by announcing they opposed the plan.
The comments set off a social media firestorm, to the point where Farenthold's Twitter handle was trending in Washington, D.C. On Monday evening, he released a statement on the blowback.
"Like the president, I am sick and tired of the left-wing biased media trying to make something out of nothing," he said. "This was clearly tongue in cheek. That being said, I'm extremely frustrated with Senate Republicans who are breaking their promise to the American people to repeal and replace Obamacare."
On Tuesday, the war of words escalated, unintentionally.
At a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Collins was overheard saying on a hot mic, "Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?"
A male voice, whom The Hill newspaper identified as U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, responded: "Trust me, you know why he challenged you to a duel? Because you could beat the shit out of him."
According to the recording, Collins responded, "He's so unattractive, it's unbelievable ... Did you see the picture of him in his pajamas next to this bunny?"
Collins, Murkowski and Moore Capito — considered moderate Republicans — haven't been the only nails in this summer's health care coffin. Previous iterations of the legislation have faced opposition from the Senate's more conservative wing, including men like U.S. Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
And duel language is not new in politics. In 2004, then-U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat who crossed party lines to campaign for President George W. Bush, invoked it against MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews. The comments were met with widespread mockery at the time.
But there's little funny about such language in the U.S. Capitol these days, after a deranged man shot and injured a Republican member of Congress during a baseball practice in June. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was gravely injured in the incident and remains hospitalized.