Obey, Waters in noisy floor fight

Two Democrats got into a verbal altercation — and according to one a physical one — on the floor of the House on Thursday night over an appropriations earmark one was seeking.

After the House floor had largely cleared following a series of votes, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) split apart from a heated conversation and began yelling at one another.

“You’re out of line,” Waters shot while walking down toward the well.

“You’re out of line,” Obey shot back before turning and walking away.

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But then Obey stopped, turned back toward Waters, and shouted: “I’m not going to approve that earmark!”

Obey turned away, but Waters went to go huddle with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. She could be over heard telling them: “He touched me first.”

Waters was escorted by her colleagues into the cloakroom.

Obey then conversed for a few minutes with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Hoyer's office said the two did not discuss the incident but instead talked only about the appropriations process.  Obey had been speaking with Hoyer and leadership staff for most of the vote series prior to his encounter with Waters.

Obey then exited the chamber.

But Waters soon returned briefly, again telling her colleagues: “He touched me.”

Waters then disappeared into the cloakroom.

Waters and Obey have had an ongoing dispute about an earmark for a public school employment training center in Los Angeles that was named after Waters when she was a state representative.

Obey rejected that earmark as violating policies against so-called “monuments to me.” Waters revised her request to go to the school district’s whole adult employment training program, so the district could decide whether the money would go to the school named after Waters.

Thursday was the committee markup of the spending bill that would include the earmark, and Obey let it be known that the earmark would be denied. She approached him and complained.

A Waters aide said that Obey had pushed her.

Ellis Brachman, a spokesman for Obey, confirmed that the dispute was about an earmark Obey denied Waters, but placed the blame on Waters for escalating the situation.

“As I understand it, she was the one who pressed the issue,” Brachman said. “The chairman repeatedly tried to end the confrontation.”

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