Congressman Andy “Handgun” Harris just gave First District residents another reason to want him out of office. It is not another claim that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, or voting “present” on a House bill denouncing QAnon, or supporting the repeal of Obamacare. This time it’s about the company he keeps.
Harris likes the company of statues honoring dead Confederate heroes. He joined with 120 other Republicans in voting against legislation to remove these statues from the U.S. Capitol. Among the 120 Republicans are some of the most notorious right-wingers in Congress. More about them later.
The legislation Harris opposed, H.R. 3005, would have replaced a bust of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision—a decision that claimed that Scott, a Black man, had no right to sue because he was not a citizen. The decision also found that legislation restricting slavery in some states was unconstitutional.
Thurgood Marshall, as most Marylanders know, was born and raised in Baltimore. His service on the Supreme Court is something of which we should all be proud. Andy Harris voted against replacing Taney’s bust with one of Marshall outside the old Supreme Court chamber located in the Capitol.
Other parts of the bill Harris voted against would have removed a statue of Jefferson Davis and his vice president, Alexander Stephens. Statues of several former Confederate generals, most depicted in military uniforms, would also be removed.
Andy Harris appears to be as comfortable with these statues as he is with the statue of the Talbot Boys in Easton. One possible explanation is that Harris wants to preserve history. That history would include Taney’s writing the worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court, and the history of Jefferson Davis’ leadership of the confederacy. During the four years as president of the Confederate States of America, more than 750,000 people died, including at least 360,000 from the North and 250,000 from the South.
Frankly, it is amazing that the statues of Davis and the other Confederate soldiers ever were placed in the Capitol. When the statue of Davis was put in the Capitol in 1938, survivors of people killed under Davis’ Confederacy were still alive, as well as other people who had been enslaved in the Confederate States of America.
The bill Harris opposed will not erase the painful history of the Civil War. Erasing that history is impossible. What the bill would do is make a statement about America today and erase any suggestion that somehow the Civil War was not about preserving slavery or was not an insurrection against the United States.
I am troubled by Harris’ vote, but not surprised. Harris is a proud member of the House Freedom Caucus, a collection of Congressmen and women who many of us would consider dangerous or insane. Harris, although usually less flamboyant than some of his Freedom Caucus colleagues, is right at home with them on the issues.
Here is some of the company Handgun Harris kept in voting no on the Confederate statue bill:
Mo Brooks (R-AL), accused by Eric Swalwell (D-CA) of inciting the January 6 riot (along with Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and others).
Right-wing dentist Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who skipped a vote on the COVID-19 relief bill to attend a fundraiser with a white nationalist.
Alleged sex trafficker Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
Trump-champion Jim Jordan (R-OH), a founding member of the Freedom Caucus and an opponent of legislation addressing climate change.
QAnon follower Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Gun-toting GED certificate-holder Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who was accused of giving a “reconnaissance tour” to January 6 Capitol rioters.
Andy Biggs (R-AZ), accused by two of his brothers of being at least partially to blame for the January 6 Trump Insurrection at the Capitol.
Among the company Harris did not keep in voting against the Confederate statue bill was every other member of the House and Senate in the Maryland delegation.
Fortunately for America, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 285–120 to remove the statues. Unfortunately, another friend of Harris, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has announced his intention to oppose the bill.
I have two questions for Harris: Do your constituents want to continue honoring Confederate traitors to the United States? And what is it that you find so worth remembering about Confederate leaders, soldiers, and their history?
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and occasionally goldendoodles.