Congress honors Capitol Police with Congressional Gold Medals

The House on Wednesday approved legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals — one of the highest civilian honors — to law enforcement agencies that protected the Capitol during the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6.

The bill, spearheaded by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Ocasio-Cortez: 'Embarrassment' that Democratic leaders are delaying Boebert punishment Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance MORE (D-Calif.), would award three medals: one for the U.S. Capitol Police, one for the Metropolitan Police Department of the District Columbia and a third medal to be displayed at the Smithsonian in honor of other law enforcement officials that responded to the crisis.

The measure passed in a vote of 413-12, with all no votes coming from Republicans. The bill highlights Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died while attempting to fend off rioters, and mourns the loss of Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengoo and Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith, both of whom committed suicide off-duty following the attack.

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The bill also praises Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman for diverting violent protesters away from the Senate chamber and notes that more than 140 law enforcement officials were hospitalized with 15 needing to be hospitalized. 

The riot took place after pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College votes, with the attack leading to at least seven deaths. 

The 12 Republicans who voted against the measure did so largely to protest specific language in the resolution, which referred to the attackers as "a mob of insurrectionists" and the Capitol as "the temple of our American Democracy."

"It could have implications for somebody’s prosecution later, if we give weight to the word 'insurrection,'" said Rep. Tom Massie (R-Ky.), one of the 12. "Also calling this a `temple’ is a little too sacrilegious for me. This is not a religion here. This is a government. We separate our religion from our government.”

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCrenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Press: GOP freak show: Who's in charge? McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP MORE (R-Fla.), another opponent, criticized Democrats for combining the medal with what he deemed "editorial comments about the January 6 sequence of events."

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Gaetz also objected to a provision of the resolution that memorializes the attack historically by providing one of the medals to the Smithsonian Institution.

"That was a little much for me," he said.

It is rare for a Speaker to sponsor or co-sponsor legislation, but Pelosi said she felt strongly about honoring what she described as the heroic actions demonstrated by police during the siege. 

"January 6 was a day of horror and heartbreak, but because of these courageous men and women, it was also a moment of extraordinary heroism. That day the United States Capitol Police force put themselves between us and the violence, they risked their safety and their lives for others with the utmost selflessness, and they did so because they were patriots, the type of Americans who heard the call to serve and answered it, putting country above self,” Pelosi said in a floor speech on Tuesday.  

A number of conservatives pushed back on the bill, arguing that they felt the language in the measure had partisan undertones. Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertCrenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' GOP Rep. Clyde racks up K in mask fines Jan. 6 organizers used burner phones to communicate with White House: report MORE (R-Texas) is spearheading efforts on an alternative bill that doesn’t include language on armed insurrectionists. 

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“I was concerned about language preceding the honoring of the Capitol Police because some of it was neither true nor accurate including saying we had an armed insurrection,” he told The Hill. 

“Because we found out, no one that came in the Capitol was armed. So rather than having false information being voted for, I preferred to have a build that honored the Capitol Police without having false statements in it that's why I took that out and honored the police.”

Law enforcement officials arrested several protestors who were armed with weapons or explosives, Reuters first reported. 

The Senate unanimously awarded Goodman with a Congressional Gold Medal for his life-saving actions last month. 

—Updated 6:18 p.m.