Years of hyperpartisan warfare culminate Thursday in two of the most contentious events in Congressional history: the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Affordable Care Act and a House vote on holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
But for institutionalists who remember a calmer, more familial atmosphere in Washington, Thursday also represents an increasingly rare moment to celebrate the fading atmosphere of bipartisan collegiality — the annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
Hopefully, “it’s a way to work off some energy or frustration. Maybe our guys will swing at the ball a little harder,” Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), the manager for the Democrats’ team, quipped Wednesday.
Doyle, who is an 18-year veteran of the baseball game, said he doubts Thursday's daylong partisan brawl will bleed over into the game.
“You can’t make it a personal thing. … There may be a few people who carry that animosity, but it’s a minority,” Doyle said, adding that the players “genuinely like one another. We’ve built up a camaraderie.”
Rep. Joe Crowley, who is also playing, joked, “Who says we’re not partisan when we play baseball? It’s the most legal form of partisanship allowed!”
Turning serious, the gregarious New York Democrat agreed with Doyle. “These things come and go, but this is a tradition here, and it’s raising money for a good cause.”
When asked whether it is difficult to put aside partisan rancor, Rep. Jeff Flake dismissed it out of hand.
“We don’t have to. We can multitask here. You’ve seen us play,” the Arizona Republican said.
It’s worth noting that at no point were leaders even entertaining the thought of keeping their chambers in session for late votes and risking the 7:05 p.m. first pitch. And just last week, female Members from both chambers and sides of the aisle teamed up to take on the Capitol press corps in the Congressional Women’s Softball game.
And past iterations of the traditional baseball summertime event — which raises money for the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington — have come during eras of heightened political rancor.
For instance, last year’s game was unfortunately timed to occur during the ugly debt ceiling fight, which pitted not only the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, against one another, but also resulted in GOP intraparty fights.
And of course, the 1998 Congressional game occurred in the midst of Republican efforts to impeach President Bill Clinton, one of the most bitterly partisan moments of the modern era.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.