Hoyer Calls McCarthy a 'Coward' Over DHS Funding

Tensions build on House floor over GOP plan to move short-term bill to avert shutdown.

Tensions in the Capitol reached a boiling point Thursday as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer was caught calling House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy a "coward" on an open mic.

McCarthy had just finished speaking on the House floor near the end of a long day spent fighting over funding for the Homeland Security Department, which is set to expire when the clock hits midnight Friday night. Earlier in the day, House Republicans pitched their members on a three-week short-term funding bill, a plan Democrats have long called a dangerous approach.

After McCarthy finished outlining Friday's schedule and yielded back his time, Hoyer was heard—audibly on C-SPAN (at the 33:06 mark)—snarling, "You coward."

Hoyer's office said he offered an apology, which was accepted by McCarthy.

Hoyer's comment came at the end of an exchange in which he pressed McCarthy on the next day's schedule. McCarthy said that members could expect a DHS bill along with the previously-planned legislation, to which Hoyer asked for more detail, asking if the Republican leaders planned to deal with funding on a long-term basis. When he began to criticize the GOP's strategy, he was cut off by boos from the other side of the aisle. McCarthy closed his remarks by saying the House "did our part" to fund DHS, which prompted Hoyer's response.

The day started with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling the GOP's funding strategy "amateur hour," while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid compared it unfavorably with eighth grade civics lessons. Meanwhile, conservative activists in nearby National Harbor were urging Republicans to let DHS funding lapse if that's what it took to stop Obama.

In the middle of all that, House Republicans floated a plan to fund DHS for three weeks, then use that time to create a conference committee with the Senate on a long-term funding bill—one that would likely include several riders to halt Obama's immigration actions. Reid has said he will not allow that to happen.

Reaction to that plan was mixed among House Republicans, and a House Democratic leadership aide said Pelosi's team is whipping against it.