The rancor that has been simmering in the New Hampshire House all session erupted yesterday — between two members of the majority Republican Party.
It started when House Speaker William O'Brien cut off debate on the voter ID bill.
That irritated Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, who challenged O'Brien.
The speaker ordered the sergeant at arms to bring the Manchester lawmaker to order and warned he would be removed from the House chamber if there were any more problems.
In response, Vaillancourt saluted O'Brien and shouted, "Sieg Heil."
At the point, O'Brien ordered him removed.
But Vaillancourt remained seated, leaving only after the House took a lunch recess.
Other lawmakers made motions that would allow Vaillancourt back in the chamber and his voting key returned if he apologized. Vaillancourt insisted he apologize on his own terms.
His initial apology was not accepted and O'Brien appointed a committee of three to work out an acceptable apology with Vaillancourt. On the third try, his apology was accepted.
Local House members, all Republicans, were quick to criticize Vaillancourt — and defend the way O'Brien runs the House.
"He's a loose cannon," Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, said of Vaillancourt. "He acted quite inappropriately and made a number of inappropriate remarks."
Garcia and Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, called it an unfortunate incident, but said it was not reflective of the positive work done by lawmakers.
"This seemed to be so out of character for him," Bates said. "It didn't affect the House's ability to deal with that bill, but it definitely delayed things. We'll just move on."
The House passed the controversial voter ID bill, 226-115. It will move on to the Senate.
Garcia praised O'Brien's handling of the matter. She said Vaillancourt is only one of a couple of lawmakers whose actions are a poor reflection on the House.
O'Brien's second in command, House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, was at his grandmother's funeral during the incident, but stopped at the Statehouse later in the afternoon.
"It's a very sad day for a proud institution," he said. "First and foremost, those comments have no place in proper political discourse. ... It's just disgraceful. "
Another Salem Republican, Rep. Ron Belanger, said Vaillancourt's comments "were uncalled for."
But both Belanger and Bettencourt said they were glad Vaillancourt realized he made a mistake.
"He did the right thing by apologizing," Bettencourt said.
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