Biden to host Medal of Valor ceremony amid sequestration, gun control battles

Vice President Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder will speak Wednesday at an event honoring 18 recipients of the Medal of Valor, the nation's highest honor awarded to public safety officers.

The ceremony comes amid simultaneous pushes by the Obama administration to both avoid the looming sequestration cuts that could see public-sector first-responders furloughed or laid off, and an effort — spearheaded by Biden — to pass new regulations on firearms.

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Recipients of the award to be honored at Wednesday's event are primarily public-safety officials who demonstrate bravery in the face of armed suspects and assailants. They include a Minnesota policewoman who was shot — and saw her partner killed — responding to an estranged ex-husband who had broken into a woman's apartment, a Florida corrections officer who disarmed an inmate who had taken a fellow officer hostage, and an Arkansas wildlife officer who inserted himself into the midst of a violent firefight to save the life of fellow officers.

On Tuesday, Biden participated in a Facebook town hall moderated by Parents magazine to defend the administration's proposals to implement new gun law regulations. The White House has called for a renewed assault weapons ban, limits on the capacity of magazine clips and universal background checks on all gun purchases.

"I just think there are a lot of rational things that we can do that will increase the prospect that fewer people will be the victim of gun violence," Biden said. "And we should."

The ceremony also comes just one day after President Obama spoke at a White House event flanked by first-responders who could see their hours cut if the across-the-board sequester cuts were allowed to go into effect.

"Emergency responders like the ones who are here today — their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded," Obama said. "Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced.  FBI agents will be furloughed.  Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go."

While the White House has not previewed remarks from either Biden or Holder, it seems likely that the pair will use the occasion to continue advocating for new gun controls and a resolution to the sequester fight.

The list of honorees for Wednesday's ceremony, as provided by the White House: Officers Julie Olson, Reeshemah Taylor, Sean Haller, Rafael Rivera, Timothy McClintick, Max McDonald and Douglas Weaver; Wildlife Officer Michael Neel; Troopers Robert Lombardo and Joshua Miller (posthumously); Firefighters Peter Demontreux, Hope Scott and William Reynolds; Deputy Sheriff Krista McDonald; Deputies Cameron Justus (posthumously) and William Stiltner (posthumously); and Sergeants Karl Lounge Jr. and Thomass Baitinger (posthumously).

The Medal of Valor was first established in 2001, and has been awarded 78 times, including Wednesday's awardees.