In a sign of how tense the dynamics are in the House Republican conference, GOP Rep. Tim Burchett accused Kevin McCarthy of elbowing him in the back while he was talking to a reporter after the party's conference meeting Tuesday morning.
Burchett told CNN that while he was speaking with a reporter in the hallway outside the meeting, McCarthy shoved by him as he walked passed with his security detail. Burchett said he then chased after McCarthy and the two had a conversation.
McCarthy denied the incident to CNN’s Melanie Zanona and said “I didn’t shove or elbow him, it’s a tight hallway.” In lengthy remarks to reporters later in the day, he again denied he hit Burchett but said he will reach out to him to discuss the incident.
Burchett, who was one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, has been heavily critical of the former speaker and the alleged altercation is the latest sign of the pressure cooker environment in the House GOP right now.
Speaking to CNN again later in the day, Burchett slammed McCarthy for being a “bully,” as he described his altercation with the former House GOP leader, saying he elbowed him in the kidneys.
“I got elbowed in the back and it kind of caught me off guard because it was a clean shot to the kidneys," Burchett told CNN’s Manu Raju. "And I turned back (and) there, there was Kevin, and for a minute, I was kind of what the heck just happened and then chased after him, of course."
“Now he's the type of guy that when you're a kid would throw a rock over the fence and run home and hide behind his mama's skirt," he added.
Burchett said McCarthy brushed him off when he went to confront him about the altercation. He added that he “raised his voice” and that McCarthy responded back to him with “that high pitched kind of thing.”
“Of course, as he always did, does, he just denies it or blames somebody else or something. And ... it was just a little heated. But I just backed off because – I saw no reason. I wasn't gaining anything from it. Everybody saw it. So it didn't really matter,” he told CNN.
When asked about McCarthy’s denials and his claim that the hallway was tight and it was an accident, Burchett said it wasn’t a serious explanation.
"There’s 435 congressmen, I was one of the eight that voted against him. That hallway was — there's plenty of room, you could walk four side-by-side. He chose to do what he did. And you know, it'll end right here. I'm sure it’ll just be a little asterisk on his storied career,” he said.
The Tennessee Republican also accused the former speaker of using his substantial campaign war chest to interfere in members’ races and that he believes McCarthy – who has not yet said whether he will stay in the House – will be gone by the next Congress.
More background: It has gotten tense between the two Republican lawmakers in recent weeks. McCarthy told CNN he was surprised Burchett was one of the eight House Republicans to vote to oust him from his speakership.
In the lead up to the vote, Burchett revealed that McCarthy was condescending about his statement that he was praying about whether to vote to oust McCarthy or not.
The altercation also comes as tensions are at an all-time high in the House, as members have been in session for 10 weeks straight. House Speaker Mike Johnson said at his news conference on Tuesday that the Thanksgiving break will allow members to return home and “cool off.”