Senator, Teamsters boss nearly fist fight at committee hearing

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A Senate hearing on Tuesday went sideways, back and forth, and quite nearly to blows when Teamsters President Sean O'Brien and Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) nearly agreed to a fist fight right there in the chamber.

This isn't the first time Mullin and O'Brien have exchanged fighting words. Back in March, when discussing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, Mullin accused O'Brien of attempting "intimidating" behavior.

Tuesday's hearing, titled "Standing Up Against Corporate Greed: How Unions are Improving the Lives of Working Families" from the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), seemed inviting enough for the union boss. 

[Related: Senator Bernie Sanders sends a message to trucking]

But Mullin had some unfinished business to attend to. A tweet from the Teamsters boss back in June, apparently, just didn't sit right with Mullin. 

This is how Tuesday's heated exchange transpired:

"After you left here, you got pretty excited about the keyboard," said Mullin, before reading aloud the above tweet. 

“You want to run your mouth? We can be two consenting adults, we can finish it here,” Mullin said.

“OK, that’s fine, perfect,” O’Brien replied. “I’d love to do it right now.”

“Then stand your butt up then,” Mullin responded, rising from his chair. 

“You stand your butt up,” O’Brien said.

But Sanders intervened before Mullin got far. 

“No, no, sit down! Sit down! You’re a United States senator!” Sanders interjected. 

Some scattered trash talk continued as order returned to the chamber. 

Mullin, who formerly owned and operated a plumbing business with his wife, has an MMA record of five wins, zero losses, according to his bio on his website. O'Brien boasts a career spent fighting for workers, though we understand this to be a metaphorical fight. 

For O'Brien, the committee hearing, chaired by union-friendly Sanders, should have been an easy outing. O'Brien's written testimony shows him stressing the importance of unions and calling out Amazon's labor practices. 

But the headlines from Tuesday's brouhaha probably won't get that deep into labor disputes. Conventional wisdom in industry has long held "don't mess with the Teamsters," but this author also wouldn't pick on a guy named Markwayne from Oklahoma. Or maybe 83-year-old Sanders smokes both of them next time? It wouldn't be quite WWE on the scale of entertaining battles, but hey, we'll keep an eye out.

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