An Ugly Thursday

We got a preview of the November election campaign on Thursday in the Congress, and it wasn’t pretty, as lawmakers in both parties in the House and Senate ripped into each other with unusual ferocity.

“It’s a disgrace,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who delivered an especially bitter floor speech where she blasted Democrats for not allowing Republican amendments on a small business measure.

“It’s a sad commentary,” Snowe said, detailing how the small business bill has been on the Senate floor for three weeks.

“But we have not been allowed to offer any amendments,” she said, standing next to a big poster that skewered Democrats for not holding votes on 81 days of this year’s legislative session in the Senate.

“It’s all political theater. You know, it’s scoring political points. It’s all for the next election that’s coming very shortly,” Snowe added bitterly.

For Snowe, it was a very unusual speech – I would almost label it ‘out of character’ – showcasing how chippy the atmosphere is getting in this election year between the two parties.

As soon as Snowe finished, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) verbally kneecapped the Maine Republican in return, repeatedly questioning her committment to bipartisanship.

“What the American people want from us is for us to work together, they don’t want partisan political attacks,” said Boxer, who seemed more than happy to jab at her cross-continent colleague.

I asked one Senator about how things felt on the floor these days.  His answer was to the point.

“It’s ugly out there.”

It was just as sharp over on the House side, as Republicans and Democrats also traded shots, a day before the House is set to go out on a summer break.

House GOP Leader John Boehner pointedly recalled one year ago, when the voices of many Americans were heard about health care and more in a series of town hall meetings held by members of Congress.

This year, Democrats are holding telephone-town halls, instead of in-person gatherings.

“Our members are going to be out there doing town hall meetings,” Boehner told reporters.  “What are the Democratic members going to be doing? They’re going to go hide.”

The House is out after today until September 13.

The Senate also returns that day, but Senators will work next week.

Maybe they do all need to go on vacation right now.