COLUMBIA — On consecutive days this week, South Carolina Republican congressman Ralph Norman split from the rest of the state's congressional delegation by voting against a pair of notable bills, first to honor the police officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Norman, R-Rock Hill, was one of 21 House Republicans to vote June 15 against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Capitol police and D.C. Metropolitan police for their efforts to defend the Capitol during the deadly Jan. 6 riots.
The next day, Norman was one of just 14 Republicans to oppose making June 19th a federal holiday to celebrate the emancipation of African Americans who had been enslaved.
The holiday, known as Juneteenth, originated in Texas and became a federal day off after President Joe Biden signed the bill into law June 17.
All other members of South Carolina's congressional delegation voted in favor of the bills, both of which passed easily.
Norman spokesman Austin Livingston said the congressman only voted against the Congressional Gold Medal bill because he prefers a different bill that more broadly honors the service and sacrifices of Capitol and D.C. police, not just for what they went through on Jan. 6.
"The vote was not intended to insult those who protect the Capitol," Livingston said. "Rather, it was because he now favors a different bill that honors those men and women."
As to the Juneteenth vote, Norman tweeted a statement citing four reasons for his opposition.
First, Norman said he believes calling the holiday Juneteenth Independence Day is "wholly inappropriate," saying he would be more open to considering "Freedom Day" or "Emancipation Day" so that it is more distinct from the existing July 4th holiday.
Second, Norman expressed concern about the cost, warning that it could cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars per year in payroll and other expenses.
Third, Norman complained that the bill had not gone through what is known in Congress as "regular order," skipping past any committee hearings or cost analysis.
"As reverential as Juneteenth is, this is NO WAY to run the legislative branch of government," Norman said.
Finally, Norman argued that Congress should instead be focusing on other problems like inflation, immigration and foreign policy.
"There are significant issues facing this nation," Norman said. "It's time we start actually facing them."
South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson slammed Norman for the votes, saying they show he is "simply anti-American and doesn’t believe in the American ideal of democracy."
"Norman supports treason and sedition," Robertson said. "He is part of the Coward Caucus and no longer deserves a spot in the United States Congress."
Elected in a 2017 special election to replace Mick Mulvaney, who left to work in then-President Donald Trump's administration, Norman has developed a reputation as an outspoken conservative and made several controversial headlines.
In 2018, he pulled out a loaded handgun during a meeting with constituents in attempt to prove that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals. Later that year, he made a joke about sexual assault in a debate with his Democratic opponent while senators were considering the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Then in 2020, Norman appeared in a viral live-streamed video that featured a doctor downplaying the threat of the coronavirus and claiming to have found a cure. Norman said he was not aware of what the doctor planned to say and only attended to support reopening schools. The video was scrubbed by social media platforms for misinformation.
The congressman is a member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of hardline conservatives that often needles GOP leadership to more aggressively oppose liberal policies. He previously spent a decade in the Statehouse, where he developed a close alliance with then-Gov. Nikki Haley.