Yesterday may have seen the first instance of House Representatives having to deal with the fallout from a tweet in the official Congressional record. During a day-long hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the Stop Online Piracy Act, tea party congressman Steve King (R-IA) took to Twitter to vent about his fellow member Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (R-TX):
Upon discovering the tweet several hours later, Jackson Lee took a moment of personal privilege during the hearing to respond to King’s snark, which quickly turned into a verbal sparing match with two Republicans on the committee:
JACKSON LEE: I have no reason to think that anybody cares about my words, but I would offer to say that Mr. King owes the committee an apology… I’ve never known Mr. King to have a multi-task capacity, but if that is his ability, I do think it’s inappropriate while we’re talking about serious issues to have a member of the Judiciary Committee be so offensive.
So I’m putting on the record — he is not here — I…
REP. F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): Chairman I demand the gentlewoman’s words be taken down.
JACKSON LEE: Well I’m not taking them down. So you can break this hearing, because I’m not.
Excuse me, I’m in the middle of my dialogue and I will continue.
REP. LAMAR SMITH (R-TX): No, the gentlewoman will suspend.
JACKSON LEE: I have a personal privilege at this point.
Watch it (the exchange begins at 1:30):
It seems Rep. Sensenbrenner concluded that King’s use of “boring” did not fall afoul of House rules against “unparliamentary language,” but Jackson Lee’s taking offense did. When she refused, Rep. Smith — the committee’s current chairman — went at it again, saying he was attempting to “avoid making an official ruling” that Jackson Lee had “impugned the integrity of a member of this committee.”
Jackson Lee again refused, and demanded King “give the committee an apology.” But by this point, unfortunately, King was no longer at the hearing and could not respond. After further back and forth, Jackson Lee consulted with a parliamentarian and eventually relented, agreeing to have her use of “offensive” altered to “impolitic and unkind” in the Congressional record. The hearing then returned to its official business.
Later, an apparently undaunted King took to Twitter once again to comment on the dust-up:
Rep. King, it would appear, does not lack for self-assurance.