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TIL Members of Congress Can Be Disciplined With a Giant Mace



Nancy Pelosi sits next to Mike Pence, wearing her mace brooch while watching Trump give the state of the union address.

Among all the chaos and horror yesterday, I did manage to learn one kind of fun thing about our government, and that is the existence of the U.S. House of Representative’s Mace of the Republic.

The mace is a giant silver staff that’s sort of like a feelings stick, in that when a person is holding it, everyone is supposed to respect their authority and listen to what they’re saying. The only person that gets that authority, though, is the sergeant at arms, who brings the mace out when House members are being unruly.

This is one of those super old school traditions that we inherited from the Brits. You can see from this 2018 incident that their mace is a big (if entirely symbolic) deal.

The sergeant at arms carries the mace in at the start of every House session and its position indicates whether Congress is in committee or in session.

The mace is also used for discipline, although I’m not sure if the purpose of it is actually violence. (If they’re willing to change that, though, might I recommend starting with Matt Gaetz?)

According to the mace’s Wikipedia page (why wouldn’t it have its own Wikipedia page?), “on the rare occasion that a member becomes unruly, the Sergeant at Arms, upon order of the Speaker, lifts the mace from its pedestal and presents it before the offenders, thereby restoring order.”

It’s not clear if the mace was actually brought out yesterday, but it sure seems like it should have been, when two members of Congress, Republican Andy Harris and Democrat Conor Lamb, nearly got into a fistfight on the House floor.

The mace has been used to “restore order” at least six times, or possibly more than a dozen according to an older article from the New York Times. In 1994, the speaker threatened to have the mace brought out when Rep. Maxine Waters was ordered to stop talking during a speech in which she accused a fellow House member of “badger[ing] and intimidat[ing] women.”

I’m a big fan of fashion accessories that make a political statement (a lá RBG or Queen Elizabeth) so I absolutely adore the fact that Nancy Pelosi has a giant brooch fashioned after the mace. I’ve noticed it before and couldn’t tell what it was—it looks like the medical symbol of the caduceus (the two snakes wrapped around a staff with wings), but this makes so much more sense, especially given the events when she chooses to bring out this symbol of her power as House Speaker.

Recently, she’s worn it during the press conference in which she and Rep. Adam Schiff announced the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, as well as during last year’s State of the Union address when she famously ripped up Trump’s speech.

Embed from Getty Images

In 2021, I’m all for more arcane decorative weaponry that can also be used against Matt Gaetz if needed.

(image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.