Ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid what he thinks about Speaker of the House John Boehner and the answer is abrupt.
"He's a coward," Reid told his fellow Democratic Senators this week.
Ask Boehner what he thinks of Reid and the answer is often that "he's a bastard."
In fact, "bastard" is the word that Boehner uses most often to describe his Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate and "b*tch" is a word he reserves for former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While leaders on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate attempt, and often fail, to be courteous to each other in public, the acrimony they feel towards their counterparts is becoming more and more obvious and concerns staff members.
Those close to Boehner say the Speaker too often goes berserk when talking about Pelosi, Reid and President Barack Obama, delivering a string of invectives that shocks even those used to hearing widespread deployment of curse words by elected officials.
On the Senate side, Reid often refers to Republican leader Mich McConnell of Kentucky as "an a**hole." McConnell is often heard calling Reid "a prick." Both used stronger four-letter words to describe their opponents and the actions of opposing parties.
The relationship among leaders is a contrast to earlier days in both the House and Senate when rival leaders would criticize each other in public and then share drinks afterwards and swap stories and jokes.
In the 1960s, then Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill would drop by the White House to tip a few with President Ronald Reagan. O'Neill and House Republican leader Bob Michel were social friends.
The tone, long time staff members say, changed dramatically in 1994 when Republicans won control of the House and GOP firebrand Newt Gingrich became Speaker.
"Newt was a 'take no prisoners' kind of Speaker," former GOP Congressional staff member John Lawing tells Capitol Hill Blue. "For him everything was personal and partisan."
Gingrich limited his off-hours social activities to cheating on his wife and bedding a committee staffer who is now his current spouse.
The acrimony increased with each change in leadership in both the House and Senate. Boehner and McConnell have nothing to do with their Democratic counterparts and Reid and Pelosi are content to avid social contact with Republicans.
Pelosi, daughter of a legendary crooked mayor of Baltimore, was a particularly nasty Speaker who considered Republicans "beneath her," says a former staff member who asks not to be identified.
"She had little use for Republicans and that was fine with them because they didn't care for her," the staff member says.
Boehner, whose dependence on bottles of booze is raising eyebrows among even jaded Capitol Hill observers, doesn't appear to have time socially for anyone -- Democrats or Republicans.
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