Two state senators had a heated exchange today during debate of a bill that eventually passed without a dissenting vote. Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, and Democratic Senator Tom Courtney of Burlington each accused the other of ignoring the interests of constituents.
Chelgren got things started with this: “When you put your own personal political interests or the political interests of your party above the citizens of this country or the citizens of this state, it’s wrong. It’s not why we’re here,”
Courtney then accused Chelgren of ignoring phone messages. Chelgren started yelling and Courtney yelled right back.
“You’re impugning my character,” Chelgren said.
Courtney immediately replied: “You started this, pal. You started it.”
As the two men were called away from the microphones to talk privately in the center of the senate, Courtney called Chelgren a “lying son of a gun” and Chelgren shot back with similar complaints. The senate’s floor leader then had Democrats meet in private, essentially separating the two parties and letting tempers cool. Once debate resumed, senators passed the bill on a 49-0 vote.
About an hour after the shouting match Chelgren offered a public apology during senate debate of another bill, then a few minutes later Senate Democratic Leader offered this suggestion: “So people can regulate their blood sugar levels, I’d suggest we take a break for lunch.”
The Senate debated and passed four bills before taking a 25-minute lunch break.
AUDIO of debate that devolved into shouting match