The wave of Republican lawmakers seeking to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory began to shrink after a mob supporting GOP President Donald Trump violently stormed into the U.S. Capitol in a melee in which four people died.
Some Republicans, such as U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, reversed course.
“I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” Loeffler said Wednesday, citing the riotous attack “on the very institution my objection was intended to protect: the American democratic process.”
But as some steadfast Trump supporters stepped aside, others stepped up.
Rep. Andy Harris, a sixth-term Republican from Baltimore County, delivered an impassioned House floor speech early Thursday in support of the president’s contention that some election results must be dismissed.
Raising his voice and punching the air for emphasis, Harris said there was ample reason for the 11th-hour challenge to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes going to Democrat Joe Biden.
Harris voted in favor of two objections to Biden’s victory — one related to results in Pennsylvania and another tied to the count in Arizona. Maryland’s other seven representatives — all Democrats — voted against the challenges.
Harris was one of 138 House Republicans to object to Pennsylvania’s vote and among the 121 challenging Arizona’s vote. By stepping up to speak during the debate, he took a leadership role.
“Now, we heard there’s no evidence,” Harris said during the Pennsylvania debate. “Evidence? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unilaterally extended the deadline to receive absentee and mail-in ballots. Does anybody contest that over here? Does it say the legislature did that? No, it doesn’t, it says the court did it. That’s a violation. Madame Chair, I vigorously support this objection.”
Courts have dismissed arguments in Pennsylvania that election rule changes, intended to accommodate voters during the coronavirus pandemic, were improper.
Both objections in the House failed overnight, and the Electoral College vote in Biden’s favor was confirmed.
Later Thursday, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and some other prominent Republicans split from a president they had long supported. In statements first reported by The Associated Press, Barr said Trump betrayed “his office and supporters” because of his conduct surrounding the Capitol violence. Others, too, criticized the president — and in some cases his supporters — for encouraging the mob that forced its way into the Capitol.
In Harford County on Thursday, about 30 demonstrators gathered to protest Harris’ votes outside his Bel Air office.
Harford resident Tina Hobbs, who said she is a registered Republican, took part in her first protest. She said that if Harris wanted to see changes in how states conduct elections, he should have done so through Congress “well before” Election Day in November.
She described the rioters storming Congress as making her think about “every [anti-]bullying campaign that’s ever been introduced in any public school across our country.”
”We have the biggest bully sitting in the White House. And we have Andy Harrises, 130-some of them yesterday in the House, [who] still, after what happened, did not back down off of the objections,” Hobbs said. “Thank God we had some sense come over the majority of those in the Senate.”
Meanwhile, the Maryland Democratic Party called on Harris to resign, saying he is a “disgrace” to the state and should be held responsible for the occupation of the Capitol.
“Make no mistake, the Republican members of Congress who instigated this violence — including Representative Harris — are complicit in this attempted insurrection,” said a statement by state Democratic chair Yvette Lewis. “They have blood on their hands.”
Harris said Thursday that he would not resign.
“I have routinely and consistently rejected violent protests, whether in the case of yesterday, or last summer,” the congressman said in a written statement, apparently referring to racial justice demonstrations following the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
“Democrats are calling for unity, yet also calling for the expulsion of members who objected in yesterday’s Electoral College count,” Harris’ statement said. “Today, some Marylanders are even calling for my resignation, which I will not do.”
Maryland Policy & Politics
Harris is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus. Trump enthusiastically endorsed him in June, and the Maryland Republican has been an ardent supporter of the president.
The passion of Harris and other House members was displayed during an argument during the debate early Thursday. Harris’ office released a statement that noted “tensions at the end of a difficult day” while he was on the House floor.
The drama unfolded as Rep. Conor Lamb, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said the occupation of the Capitol was “inspired by lies” from some of his GOP colleagues about the election. Republicans took issue with that, and shouts could be heard on a C-SPAN feed as Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for order.
Harris and Texas Democratic Rep. Colin Allred were among those who yelled and confronted each other, according to media reports. Harris’ statement said, “Nothing physical ever happened, or was going to happen. Mr. Allred stepped in only to ease tensions at the end of a difficult day.”
In a statement and interview, a spokesperson for Allred told The Baltimore Sun Thursday that on a video, Allred can be heard saying to Harris, “‘Are you serious, man? Haven’t you had enough violence for today?’”
Harris and spokesman Walter Smoloski did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Baltimore Sun for comment. Harris’ statement merely said Allred’s role had been “to diffuse a tense situation between his colleagues.” The statement did not describe Harris’ own involvement or actions.
Baltimore Sun reporters Christine Condon and Pamela Wood and Baltimore Sun Media reporter David Anderson contributed to this article.