15 photos that show how divided Congress has become

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  • Photos show how breaches of decorum have become more common in an increasingly polarized Congress.

  • Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert heckled Joe Biden during the State of the Union.

  • In 2023, Kevin McCarthy lost 14 votes for House speaker before winning. He was ousted months later.

Outbursts, scuffles, and statement outfits have become more common among members of Congress in an increasingly polarized political climate that's fueled an excess of election denialism, the House of Representatives struggling to elect a speaker twice in the same year, and legislative gridlock.

Divisions are rife within the parties, too. Most recently, some Republicans have called for Mike Johnson to be booted from his speaker job over the Ukraine aid package, arguing that he is betraying the GOP by working with Democrats.

Here are 15 photos that show how divided Congress has become in recent years.

Many Democratic women wore white to President Donald Trump's 2019 State of the Union address, creating a stark contrast in the House Chamber seating.

Democrats wear white to the 2019 State of the Union
President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the US House of Representatives at the Capitol Building.Alex Wong/Getty Images

The white outfits were a nod to the women's suffrage movement and a message of "solidarity" with each other and women across the US, Florida Rep. Lois Frankel, the chairwoman of the Democratic Women's Working Group, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

At least one Republican woman, Rep. Elise Stefanik, also wore white for the event. However, party lines were clearly visible in the State of the Union seating arrangements.

Rep. Dean Philips, a male congressman from Minnesota, also wore white to honor the cause.

Nancy Pelosi appeared to clap sarcastically during Trump's speech, sparking memes.

nancy pelosi state of union clap
President Donald Trump turns to then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Pelosi extended her arms and clapped at Trump with a smirk on her face. It earned her the nickname of "Queen of Condescending Applause" by some, The Washington Post reported.

Pelosi later told a group of reporters that the clap itself was not meant to be sarcastic and that she was applauding a comment Trump made about rejecting "the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good."

When Pelosi made a guest appearance on "RuPaul's Drag Race" in 2022, drag queen Raja Gemini praised what they called a "sarcastic, shady clap," describing it as a "masterclass."

"It was completely unintentional," Pelosi said with a shrug and a laugh.

Female Democratic lawmakers wore white again to the 2020 State of the Union.

House Democrats wear white during the 2020 State of the Union
Members from the House of Representatives, with most Democratic women wearing white, listen to President Donald Trump deliver the State of the Union address.OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

In 2020, the white outfits marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

At the end of Trump's 2020 address, Pelosi ripped up her copy of the speech.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rips up President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech on Feb. 4, 2020.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rips up President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech.MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Before his speech, Trump appeared to reject a handshake from Pelosi, who spearheaded his impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (He was acquitted of the charges.)

She told reporters that she ripped up the speech because "it was the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives" and that the move was not planned.

Pelosi's actions ultimately led Republican firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz to file an ethics complaint for violating House decorum, The Hill reported. Trump also later shared a doctored video to millions of his followers of the incident that was edited to make it seem like she was ripping the speech up as the former president introduced one of the few remaining Tuskegee Airmen from World War II.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wore a "Trump won" face mask to take her oath of office after President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

Marjorie Taylor Greene
Marjorie Taylor Greene wears a "Trump won" face mask as she arrives on the floor of the House to take her oath of office.Erin Scott/Pool via AP

Greene has repeatedly posted to X about her belief that Trump won the 2020 election, one of several conspiracy theories that she has promoted.

In a video posted to X after the 2020 election, Greene told her followers that there could not be a peaceful transfer of power because Biden "did not win this election."

Two days before the January 6 insurrection, Greene promised at a Trump rally that she would refuse to "certify fraudulent electoral college votes" for the incoming president.

However, under oath in April 2022, Greene denied wanting Congress to vote against certifying Biden as the 2020 election winner.

During Biden's 2022 State of the Union address, Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert interrupted the speech with frequent outbursts.

Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene yell during the State of the Union
Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene scream "Build the wall" as President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union.Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images

Greene and Boebert turned their backs and refused to applaud as Biden entered the House chamber.

During Biden's speech, both tried to start a "build the wall" chant while the president spoke about immigration. Boebert also accused Biden of being responsible for the deaths of US soldiers during the withdrawal from Afghanistan as he spoke about his late son Beau's battle with cancer following his deployment to Iraq, yelling, "You put them there, 13 of them!"

While their interruptions were widely condemned by Democrats and a few Republicans, the House of Representatives ultimately did not pass a resolution of disapproval the way it did when Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled "You lie!" at President Barack Obama during his first State of the Union address in 2009.

"I think they should just shut up," former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later said in response to Boebert and Greene.

During a 2022 hearing, the House January 6 committee displayed a photo of Sen. Josh Hawley raising his fist towards rioters before they breached the Capitol.

An image of Josh Hawley raising his fist on January 6 is projected during a House committee hearing
A photograph of Josh Hawley pumping his fist toward the rioters on January 6, 2021, is shown during a prime-time hearing of the House January 6 committee.Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The committee juxtaposed the image with security footage of Hawley fleeing from rioters as they forced their way into the Capitol.

The Washington Post reported that Republican Sen. Mitt Romney yelled, "You have caused this!" at Hawley as senators sheltered in place during the insurrection.

Hawley previously told The Huffington Post that the photo did not show him "encouraging rioters."

"At the time that we were out there, folks were gathered peacefully to protest, and they have a right to do that," Hawley said. "They do not have a right to assault cops."

It took 15 rounds of voting in January 2023 to elect Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker of the House, highlighting tensions within the Republican party.

Kevin McCarthy puts his face in his hands on the House floor
Kevin McCarthy places his face in his hands as the House of Representatives votes for new speaker.OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Due to the GOP's slim majority in the House of Representatives, McCarthy needed the support of nearly all Republicans to reach the necessary 218 votes to become speaker.

A group of 20 Republicans, members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, repeatedly withheld their support at the start of the 118th Congress, bringing the proceedings to a standstill.

The House cannot swear-in lawmakers, introduce any bills, or pass legislation until a speaker is elected.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was photographed smiling in the background as Republican lawmakers argued during the second day of the proceedings.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez smiles in the background as Republicans argue about electing a new speaker
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez looks on as Republican House members speak to one another during the second day of elections for Speaker of the House.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

After GOP Rep. Kat Cammack said that Democrats had been drinking during the speaker vote, Ocasio-Cortez responded in a post on X: "If only! If Dems took a shot every time McCarthy lost a Republican, we'd all be unconscious by now."

Photos from inside the House Chamber showed the growing frustration — and boredom — with the chaotic votes.

Katie Porter reads "The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck" during a session of Congress
Katie Porter reads a book in the House Chamber during the fourth day of elections for Speaker of the House.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Members of Congress were spotted yawning, reading comics, and bringing their pets to the House floor as the votes dragged on. Rep. Katie Porter read "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson during the 14th speaker vote.

Porter told MSNBC that the book was actually the fourth book she had read that week, adding that she "read a book basically every day during those interminable, alphabetical votes, in which the Republicans struggled to find leadership."

Porter's now running in the election to fill Sen. Dianne Feinstein's seat in the Senate after Feinstein died in late September, ultimately leading Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint Sen. Laphonza Butler to temporarily fill the position.

Rep. Mike Rogers appeared to lunge at Rep. Matt Gaetz, who opposed McCarthy's bid for speaker, during the 14th vote.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., left, pulls Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., back as they talk with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. during the 14th round of voting for speaker as the House on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
Richard Hudson pulls Mike Rogers back as they talk with Matt Gaetz during the 14th round of voting for Speaker as the House.Andrew Harnik)/AP Photo

Rep. Richard Hudson held Rogers back.

Rogers later told The New York Post that at the time, he was "exasperated" that Gaetz was "treating McCarthy so badly," which ultimately led him to walk over to where Gaetz was sitting to talk.

As for the image, Rogers said he was actually about to walk away from Gaetz when Hudson yanked him away.

As Biden delivered the 2023 State of the Union address, Greene rose from her seat and gave a thumbs-down gesture.

Marjorie Taylor Greene giving Biden a thumbs down
Marjorie Taylor Greene gives a thumb down as President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address.Jim Watson/Getty Images

Before the State of the Union in February, McCarthy told CNN that there would be no "childish games" at the speech.

"We're members of Congress. We have a code of ethics of how we should portray ourselves," McCarthy said. "And that's exactly what we'll do."

McCarthy then struggled to maintain control of his caucus as Republicans repeatedly interrupted and heckled the president during his speech. McCarthy was seen shushing Republicans such as Greene, who shouted "China spied on us" and "Liar."

The House voted to remove McCarthy as speaker in October, once again launching the chaotic process of electing a new speaker.

George Santos and Lauren Boebert
George Santos and Lauren Boebert on the House floor before the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House, Jim Jordan, failed to receive enough votes to win the position.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

During the first vote on Tuesday, 20 House Republicans voted against Rep. Jim Jordan's bid for speaker. In the second vote on Wednesday, that number rose to 22.

During the first vote, Boebert was seated next to Rep. George Santos, who was photographed pointing and laughing. Santos was accused of stealing campaign donors' credit card information and paying his own campaign in a superseding indictment filed on October 10. He has denied wrongdoing.

Divisions within the Democratic party were visible during the 2024 State of the Union when Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush held signs calling for a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza.

Democratic Reps. Summer Lee, Rashida Tlaib, and Cori Bush all voted against providing military aid to Israel.
Democratic Reps. Summer Lee, Rashida Tlaib, and Cori Bush all voted against providing military aid to Israel.Alex Wong/Getty Images

Tlaib and Bush held signs that read "Stop sending bombs" and wore traditional Palestinian scarves known as keffiyehs. Rep. Summer Lee, seated next to Tlaib, also wore a keffiyeh.

Israel's military actions targeting Hamas operatives and infrastructure in Gaza have had a devastating human toll. The issue remains divisive among Democrats, with some in the party's progressive wing raising the possibility of conditioning US aid to Israel and some voters casting "uncommitted" ballots in primaries to protest Biden's handling of the war.

Greene also heckled Biden's address as she had in the past, but this time, Biden responded.

Marjorie Taylor Greene shouts at President Joe Biden during the 2024 State of the Union
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shouts at President Joe Biden as he delivers the State of the Union address.Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images

Greene was heard repeatedly shouting, "Say her name," goading Biden to acknowledge a 22-year-old nursing student named Laken Riley who was killed in Georgia in February. A Venezuelan man who entered the US illegally was charged with kidnapping and murder in connection with her death.

Biden responded to Greene by holding up a pin with Riley's name.

"Laken Riley, an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal. That's right," Biden said, though he mispronounced her name as "Lincoln."

Biden later told MSNBC that he regretted using the term "illegal" and should have said "undocumented" instead.

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