Maryland Rep. Andy Harris said Wednesday that he objected to legislation awarding medals to police officers protecting the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 because he believes the bill incorrectly used the word “insurrection.”
The Baltimore County Republican was one of 21 House members, all Republicans, voting against a measure Tuesday to award the Congressional Gold Medal to U.S. Capitol Police and other officers at the Capitol during the violent attack and occupation by a mob loyal to former President Donald Trump. The House approved the bill 406-21.
According to the bill’s text, the purpose is to honor “the sacrifice of heroes” as “a mob of insurrectionists forced its way into the U.S. Capitol building and congressional office buildings and engaged in acts of vandalism, looting, and violently attacked Capitol Police officers.”
Harris said it is unclear whether the “terrible acts” of Jan. 6 amounted legally to insurrection.
“This otherwise commendable resolution was hijacked by Speaker Pelosi to continue pushing her claims that January 6th was an armed ‘insurrection,’ which has legal meanings, and punishments,” Harris said in a statement to The Star Democrat, an Eastern Shore newspaper. The sixth-term congressman represents parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties, as well as the Eastern Shore.
“Regardless of our personal feeling on the events of that day, Congress must respect the constitutional principles of due process and the rule of law, and not politicize honoring our Capitol Police heroes,” his statement said.
Neither Harris nor his staff returned messages about his vote left by The Baltimore Sun. Harris cited U.S. code in his statement, which outlines punishments for insurrection but does not define the act. Merriam-Webster defines insurrection as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.”
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Under the legislation, gold medals with “suitable” inscriptions would be displayed at the headquarters of the U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, as well as at the Capitol and Smithsonian Institution.
Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
Democrats Heather Mizeur and Dave Harden, who are trying to unseat Harris in the 2022 election, both issued statements about the vote.
Mizeur said Harris was siding “with traitors and insurrectionists.” Harden wrote on Twitter that the congressman “thinks it’s better for him politically to vote against our first responders.”
Harris’ opposition to the bill comes as other Republican lawmakers have disputed what happened on Jan. 6. Republicans have argued Capitol rioters weren’t armed, despite dozens of people being charged with firearms and weapons crimes. Other GOP members have compared the people who forced their way into the Capitol to tourists.
Harris, an unwavering Trump supporter and member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, joined GOP colleagues in arguing on behalf of Trump’s unfounded contention in January that some election results must be dismissed because of fraud or other irregularities. No evidence has been presented of any fraud.
Harris has said he will seek a seventh two-year term in 2022, despite promising in 2010 to serve no more than six terms.