For state Rep. Tim Roche, his vote on a Maine resolution calling the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection an “act of domestic terrorism” and honoring law enforcement officers who keep the country safe and able to vote, was a personal one.
He thought about a time when his son, then a teenage Senate page for former Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, scolded him for leaning against a desk during a tour of the U.S. Capitol.
“He goes ‘Dad what are you doing?,’ ” Roche (R-Wells) said. He then asked his son if the desk belonged to someone of particular importance.
“No, it’s a desk,” his son replied, “But it’s the desk of a Senator.” Roche said his son went on to describe why leaning on a desk, something so minor in comparison to the insurrection, was disrespectful.
Fast forward to 2021. Roche remembers calling his son as rioters breached the Capitol hoping to stop the certification of now-President Joe Biden, and hearing his son cry on the other end of the phone.
“He was legitimately in tears,” Roche said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s a businessman. He knows life. He goes, ‘Dad, this is wrong,’ and he’s a Republican.”
“It is so wrong, on every level that this is being accepted as anything but, in my mind, a terrorist group that that decided to do this,” Roche said.
Roche wasn’t surprised to see the majority of his House Republican colleagues vote no on Wednesday. He admits he’s already considered a RINO, or Republican in Name Only, by some people in his party.
“I heard people are already starting to talk about me, and the others (who voted yes), I’m sure,” he said. “(They are saying) we somehow have abandoned our party and I disagree strongly. In fact, I think we made our party stronger by being able to say, this is wrong. What happened is wrong.”
While the decision to support the resolution was a no-brainer for Roche, Rep. Amy Arata (R – New Gloucester) said she was unsure how to vote when the resolution first crossed her desk.
Arata decided to support the measure, becoming one of just five House Republicans to do so. Arata did it because “it was terrible with what these people did to the police officers.”
Still, Arata called the vote highly political and rushed.
She struggled with using the term “domestic terrorism” to describe the events of Jan. 6, during which hundreds of protestors broke into the U.S. Capitol demanding that the presidency be given to Trump (more than 700 have been arrested). Arata said she understood why her colleagues opposed it.
“A lot of the Republicans were like, ‘Wait a minute. We’re not we’re not sure it this was domestic terrorism,’ ” Arata said. As for her vote, she pointed to insurrectionists chanting “hang (Vice President) Mike Pence” and eerie shouts in search of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“To me, they’re trying to terrorize somebody. That would make me terrified,” she said. “So that’s, you know, one reason I decided to go ahead and vote yes. But I did not think it was an appropriate thing to be voting on at that time.”
Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham) echoed some of Arata’s concerns about the use of the words domestic terrorism, noting that no one has been charged with that particular crime in relation to the insurrection. But ultimately he said the sentiment of the resolution was right, so he also voted yes.
Still, Corey said it was “written awfully” and will further divide the Legislature. He said such a resolution could open the door for Republicans to write a resolution condemning violent summer protests.
“I think it’s disunifying and intentionally put there for campaign reasons,” Corey said. “… Why throw gas on a fire?”
While no insurrectionist has been charged with domestic terrorism, the use of the term in association with the events of Jan. 6 has been used by both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Roche noted that even U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a staunch Republican, called it terrorism.
Rep. Bruce Bickford (R-Auburn) called the resolution “spot on.”
“It didn’t attack any individual and politics, it didn’t attack any party. So it was right. It was the right wording, I believe.”
Bickford had no issue with the language. “It was domestic terrorism,” he said. “I mean, that was brutal, what they did.”
When asked if it’s the Republican Party line to oppose measures related to Jan. 6, Bickford said no. “Nobody’s ever told me how to vote,” he said. “And if they ever did, I certainly still voted the way I felt was proper.”
Rep. William Tuell (R-Machias), the only other Republican yes vote, did not return a call by deadline Thursday. There were also 23 members absent on Wednesday for the start of the session.
While a strong majority of House Republicans opposed the resolution, it passed the Maine Senate unanimously and without a roll call vote.
Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash), who sponsored the resolution, said there was no controversy about recognizing the insurrection and supporting law enforcement in the Senate.
“We passed that in the Senate under the hammer with no real conversation,” Jackson said Thursday. He added that he spoke to Sen. Matthew Pouliot (R-Kennebec) beforehand, who said there were no problems with the resolution.
Corey said the Senate “took it on the chin,” but that the House, which he described as the “more volatile body” decided “heck yeah, let’s vote.”
Arata said the resolution was a “surprise,” a “sneak attack,” and that it should have been on the House calendar. Because the measure originated in the Senate, it would have never been on the calendar and would have to be sent as a supplemental.
Jackson said the complaints about it being a surprise, which came from a few Republicans during floor debate Wednesday, show that they are “clueless about the (legislative) process.”
“Yesterday was the first day of the damn session,” Jackson said. “So they ought to probably figure out how to do their job before they start criticizing that stuff.”
Jackson also said Republicans who voted against the resolution are hypocritical.
“These people are the first ones to hold up the Constitution and wrap themselves in the flag, and they’re not willing to stand up and at least recognize those (law enforcement) people down there that stood up against a massive hoard, regardless what you want to call them, and did their job,” Jackson said.