Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. Trey Gowdy are as polar opposite as two members of Congress can get. Cummings (a black liberal from Baltimore) and Gowdy (a Tea Party white guy from rural South Carolina) have spent almost two years now duking it out on the Benghazi committee, which Gowdy runs and which Cummings has said to Gowdy's face during hearings is a farce.
Basically, everyone knows that Cummings wouldn't piss on Gowdy if the latter was on fire funning down the halls of the Capitol building and vice-versa. So it was a rather incredible sight to these two men joined in battle against a common enemy on Thursday morning.
What force could be so powerfully awful to bring Cummings and Gowdy together in battle?
That's right. It wasn't too-big-to-fail banks, or the Zika Virus, or even ISIS that brought Congress together in fraternal hatred... It was our old friend Martin Shkreli.
Called as a witness to a House Oversight Committee hearing on prescription drug pricing, Shkreli - who has taken every opportunity to let everyone know that he would be taking the fifth - slumped and smirked like a tween waiting to see the principal, and then went full eye-roll and slouch once the committee came to order.
The adolescent routine caught the ire of Cummings, who scolded Shkreli. "It's not funny Mr. Shkreli," he said "People are dying, and they're getting sicker and sicker."
Members of the committee led off with some remarks about the rapacious Pharma industry (a representative of Valeant was there to make sure the whole thing looked legit) and then the assembled witnesses were given time to talk and answer questions. Shkreli was the last of five witnesses, which was apropos since he immediately took the fifth.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-CA) chaired the committee and started off on Shkreli, trying to get him to indicate some sense of remorse over his price-gouging of the drug Deraprim. Chaffetz was met with smirks and ""On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege, and decline to answer that question,"
Gowdy went next and dipped into his now well-known hayseed Vaudeville bag of tricks to try and "trick" Shkreli into answering a question by asking him if he was pronouncing his name right.
When Shkreli answered "Yes," Gowdy got cute and replied "See! You can answer some questions! That one didn't incriminate you."
That was met with another Shkreli eye-roll, which made sense in that instance.
After that, Martin retreated to the fifth which didn't stop Gowdy from continuing to hammer away at Shkreli like a house member trying to rack up political points on a hated celebrity sitting right in front of him [ed note: we're fresh out of analogies].
When Gowdy pointed out over and over again that Shkreli never shuts up on social media and should therefore be compelled to talk to Congress, Shkreli's newly-hired lawyer Benajamin Brafman stood up and asked to be recognized be the committee. That request prompted Chaffetz to look at Brafman with eyes that said "What even the f@ck are you doing?" and a mouth that said "No, under House rules, you may not...You will be seated."
After that Barnum & Bailey moment of lawyering, Chaffetz turned the floor over to Cummings, who dressed Shkreli down like a petulant child but in the end seemed to find himself simply begging Martin to stop the shenanigans and get it together.
Upon watching Cummings give up, Chaffetz - usually a huge fan of creating Kabuki Congressional theater - appeared to tire of Shkreli's whole routine as well and dismissed him and Brafman from the chamber.
Before the two men had even left the room, another member of the committee was asking Chaffetz if he would hold Shkreli in contempt of Congress. Chaffetz demurred, a decision he might like to have back considering that minutes later Shkreli tweeted this from his iPhone while likely still inside the Congressional office building...
Overall it was the kind of forward-thinking public debate that our founding fathers dreamed about. Hooray.
Feel free to get drunk and watch the whole thing here...
Prescription Drug Market Hearing [C-SPAN]