I feel like the amateur scientist in pith helmet and jodhpurs, fresh from an expedition, excited to present a perfect specimen to the natural history society. However, instead of an insect fossil from the Triassic Period, I bring you a living, breathing example of Homo hypocrita from the Trumpian Period: Rep. Andy Harris.
Maryland’s only Republican in Congress might have his flaws — few accomplishments in 12 years on Capitol Hill, bizarre adoration of the authoritarian prime minister of Hungary, a fellow traveler of GOP wing-nuts — but he is a truly perfect man in one respect: his hypocrisy.
Of course, this was already established. I concede that point.
Harris locked up his place in the Hypocrite Hall of Fame with a stellar performance shortly after his election to Congress in 2010. During a private orientation for House freshmen, Harris, who had just won his 1st District seat as an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, complained that his federal health insurance plan would not be effective on his first day on the job.
“This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed,” Harris said. Some of the 200 guests at the meeting were so impressed with Harris’ hypocrisy — his embrace of government-subsidized insurance, his whining about having to wait 30 days to get it — they contacted the press. And so we learned about this the next day.
It did not faze Harris in the least to be so exposed. He subsequently voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times, though thousands of his constituents, from Baltimore County to the Eastern Shore, benefited from it.
Now, as he runs for a seventh term he once pledged not to seek, Harris has done something that affirms his status in the Hypocrite Hall of Fame: He’s touting a federally funded environmental project for the Chesapeake Bay that he voted against. This is the specimen I present today. It’s classic politics, a smarmy maneuver known as “vote no and take the dough.”
Because he takes the most extreme line on just about everything, and because his party requires fierce opposition to every Democratic initiative, Harris voted against the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in November. Only 13 House Republicans supported the measure despite the fact that the act will provide funding for all kinds of public works and climate-related projects across the country. Some of the projects have been on the drawing boards for years.
Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that passage of the infrastructure bill Harris opposed will go toward some 500 projects across the country, including a huge, decades-long effort to restore eroded islands in the Chesapeake.
One of them, James Island in the Little Choptank River, has been sinking away for years. I’ve seen it myself during fishing trips. Measured at about 1,500 wooded acres in the mid-18th Century, all that’s visible today are three small clumps of land with a few trees.
Now, the Baltimore District of the Corps of Engineers intends to do to James what it has done successfully over the years at Poplar Island a few miles to the north — build it up, enlarge it and create marsh habitat for wildlife. It’s known as the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project, made possible with about $37.5 million from the infrastructure package championed by Biden and congressional Democrats.
Besides James, nearby Barren Island will be part of this project. Dredge material from the Port of Baltimore will be used to restore the islands — James to 2,100 acres, Barren to about 72 — and that’s why this is considered a win-win for regional commerce as well as the bay. The port will get channels and berths dredged for cargo ships while the islands will provide habitat for wildlife and greater protection from storms for Dorchester County shorelines and homes.
Dredge material might also come from nearby Slaughter Creek, and that’s where we find Andy Harris.
In a news release published verbatim by an Eastern Shore newspaper, Harris “announced” that the Corps of Engineers will devote $50,000 for initial engineering work on Slaughter Creek dredging.
“I have heard for years the concerns from local citizens and local government officials about the need to dredge Slaughter Creek,” the Dorchester Star quoted Harris. “Thankfully, with this round of funding, we will begin this long overdue process, and additionally it will allow us to continue the important work of island restoration along the Mid-Shore.”
Sounds great, right?
Except Harris opposed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and that’s exactly where all the funds for these projects come from. That makes him — confirms him — a hypocrite.
He’s not the only Republican trying to take credit for infrastructure funding that he opposed. There are several others who opted to “vote no and take the dough.” The staff of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi compiled a list of them.
This is galling and appalling.
Everyone understands that the nation is hyperpolarized. Republicans in Congress want Biden to fail in as many ways as possible, so that meant opposing infrastructure spending — something necessary and beneficial to their very own districts.
Voters don’t need to play into this game, but they do. Those in Maryland’s 1st District keep sending to Congress a perfect specimen of a hypocrite, a man who votes against the interests of his very own constituents. It’s ridiculous.