Andy Harris facing criticism over election challenge

Facing calls to either resign or face censure from his colleagues, the Republican U.S. Congressman who represents Salisbury and Wicomico County has found himself increasingly embattled in the wake of Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Congressman Andy Harris.

Hours after the Wednesday attack that has consumed the nation, 1st District Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County argued on the House floor against the veracity of electoral votes in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Harris even became involved in a shouting match with a Pennsylvania Congressman — an incident that reporters who witnessed the conflict described as nearly becoming physical.

Easily re-elected to a sixth term in November, Harris was one of 106 House Republicans who challenged presidential election results in four swing states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Some of my colleagues, including those still in the Maryland delegation, offered objections in 2017 when counting the electoral votes for President Trump,” Harris said in a statement issued Thursday.

“Congress is afforded the right to count — and object to — electoral votes, which we utilized yesterday to highlight concerns we had regarding the November election,” Harris said. “There was nothing treasonous or seditious about it in 2017, nor this year.”

The early-Thursday-morning shouting event was unusual, even for a House chamber where tempers can sometimes boil over.

According to accounts from reporters in the room, Republicans became angry at about 2 a.m. as Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania was giving a speech in which he alleged Wednesday’s crowd violence was inspired by Republican “lies” about the election outcome.

“The members who are repeating those lies should be ashamed of themselves. Their constituents should be ashamed of them,” Lamb said. “A woman died out there tonight, and you’re making these objections.”

Republicans tried to interrupt Lamb, and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to silence the remarks, as personal insults and accusations are not permitted in debate.

Pelosi dismissed the protests and told Lamb to continue.

On the C-SPAN video footage from the moment, only Lamb is visible. But Harris’ distinctive voice can be heard yelling from across the room.

“He called me a liar!” Harris yelled.

Then, according to reporters from PBS, CNN and Huffington Post, Harris began to cross the center aisle that divides the two parties and was blocked by Democratic Rep. Colin Allred of Texas.

On the video, several members could be seen standing up and moving toward the off-screen conflict. Pelosi, obviously flustered by the event, banged her gavel repeatedly and ordered that members clear the chamber.

The men were separated by a Capitol staffer and eventually returned to their seats before exhausted lawmakers finally confirmed Biden’s win at 3.40 a.m.

CNN  reporter Kristin Wilson wrote on Twitter:

“Rep. Andy Harris and Rep, Colin Allred yelled at each other to “sit down” “no, you sit down!” from across the floor. Then confronted each other in (the) aisle. At least a dozen other members bench cleared from their sides. Diffused fairly quickly but tensions are high.”

Later she added: “Members are threatening each other. Deputy Sergeant at Arms showed up in the scrum. That’s significant. She appears when there are confrontations between members and has the authority to literally hit them with a mace if they don’t stop.”

If the encounter had indeed become physical, it might have been painful to watch: Harris is a 63-year-old career anesthesiologist; Allred, is a 37-year-old former college football player at Baylor, who later played for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Opposes violence

Harris addressed the controversy now surrounding him in Thursday’s statement.

“I have routinely and consistently rejected violent protests, whether in the case of yesterday, or last summer,” Harris said. “Democrats are calling for unity, yet also calling for the expulsion of members who objected in yesterday’s Electoral College count. Today, some Marylanders are even calling for my resignation, which I will not do.

“My colleagues and I held legitimate constitutional concerns about how the November election was conducted in certain states and felt compelled to highlight those concerns during the formal vote count. We did not call for the overthrowing of an election.”

Editorials published Sunday in the Easton Star-Democrat and Annapolis Capital newspapers were especially critical of Harris. The Talbot County newspaper called on the Congressman to resign, while the Capital called for his censure.

“U.S. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland lied,” wrote the Capital’s Editorial Board. “He knew there was no evidence that Joe Biden unfairly won the presidency. Yet, he signed a document supporting a specious lawsuit from Texas challenging the results. He stood there on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday and sided with a mob that tried to overthrow the results of that election through insurrection.”

Maryland’s Democratic Party Chair said Harris should resign.

“Despite seeing the destruction and harm his falsehoods have wrought, Representative Harris continued to legitimize and fuel the attempted insurrection, voting and speaking against the certification of the Electoral College,” Yvette Lewis said.

Gov. Larry Hogan critical

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan appeared Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” and was asked by host Jake Tapper to possibly explain his Republican colleague’s rationale in opposing the election results.

Hogan evaded Tapper’s direct question on whether Harris should resign.

“I’m not sure what Congressman Harris should do,” Hogan said, “but I was extremely outraged at some of the things he did and said.”

Hogan criticized both President Trump’s actions and the support that Trump continues to enjoy from elected Republicans.

“There is no question in my mind that he (Trump) was responsible for inciting this riotous mob,” Hogan told Tapper.

In a letter and response circulated on social media, Harris seemed to side on Friday with a Lower Shore constituent who said Black Lives Matter and so-called Antifa members were among those causing destruction at the Capitol building.

Many Trump supporters have sought to blame “insurgents” for the riots

Harris wrote to the constituent: “This is exactly the conclusion many of us have come to – that Antifa and BLM are really domestic terrorists who infiltrated the event yesterday specifically to wreak havoc – which they seemed to have accomplished. I certainly hope investigations of this are conducted – I certainly will be pushing for that.”

Harris has faced some significant House of Representatives votes in recent weeks. Formally, he:

  • In supporting President Trump, he found himself aligned with far-left Democrats and voting against his Republican leadership on the nation’s Defense Authorization budget.
  • Opposed Trump’s call to send $2,000 stimulus checks to most Americans.
  • Voted against certifying the presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.

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