House votes to award medals to 'Monuments Men,' Jack Nicklaus

The House on Monday evening voted to award seven Congressional Gold Medals, including to the "Monuments Men" depicted in the 2014 film starring George Clooney and famed golfer Jack Nicklaus.

Seven total bills to award Congressional Gold Medals made up the bulk of the House's Monday agenda. Upon winning the majority in 2010, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) vowed to eliminate bills from the suspension calendar that were mere "expressions of appreciation and recognition for individuals, groups, events and institutions." Congressional Gold Medals were not specifically mentioned. 

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"There are other remedies that allow members to show support without requiring the 435 votes of the House of Representatives," Cantor wrote.

But lawmakers said that the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program, a group of men and women established by the Allied armies who recovered works of art stolen by the Nazis during World War II, should be recognized for their efforts. The measure passed on a voice vote.

"Without the heroic work of the Monuments Men, much of Europe's cultural heritage would have been lost," said Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.). "We and the world owe them an incalculable debt."

The film released earlier this year, which Clooney starred in and directed, was based on a biography by Robert Edsel. 

Members of both parties said the efforts of the Monuments Men ensured that future generations could appreciate the culture of their ancestors.

"The Monuments Men did more than just preserve these paintings that could hang in a museum. They preserved our heritage," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). 

The House also voted 371-10 to award a Congressional Gold Medal to golfer Jack Nicklaus.

"Jack Nicklaus is a world-famous golf professional, a highly successful business executive, a prominent advertising spokesman, a passionate and dedicated philanthropist, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and a man with a common touch that has made him one of the most popular and accessible public figures in history," the ten-page measure reads.

"Jack Nicklaus’ magnetic personality and unfailing sense of kindness and thoughtfulness have endeared him to millions throughout the world," it adds.

Lawmakers in particular praised the golfing champion's philanthropic work through the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.

"It would have been very easy for him to retire, count his money, make more money and fade away. That's the easy thing to do. The hard thing to do is transition yourself into a great leader," said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).

Earlier Monday, the House gave voice vote approval to a separate bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Israeli President Shimon Peres

The House also approved the following bills to award Congressional Gold Medals under suspension of the rules:

- H.R. 685, by 381-0, to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the American Fighter Aces.

- S. 309, by voice vote, to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol.

- H.R. 1209, by voice vote, to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the "Doolittle Tokyo Raiders."

- H.R. 1726, by voice vote, to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment.

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