Senate unanimously approves Congressional Gold Medals for Capitol, DC police officers

The bill is now headed to President Joe Biden's desk for his signature


By Chris Marquette
CQ-Roll Call

WASHINGTON — Legislation to honor the Capitol Police and Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department with Congressional Gold Medals — in recognition of their heroism in protecting members of Congress from pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6 — is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

The Senate passed, by unanimous consent, a bill that would provide four Congressional Gold Medals to the Capitol Police and those who protected the Capitol during the attack. The medals will be displayed at the Capitol Police headquarters, Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, the Smithsonian Institution and the Capitol.

The House passed the bill in June on a 406-21 vote.

Congressional Gold Medals are given to people or institutions as Congress’ “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions,” as the House historian’s website puts it.

“When little kids walk by and see them at the Smithsonian, their parents are going to be able to tell them this happened,” Senate Rules Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said on the floor. “This attack happened, and there were brave police officers and staff and others in this building that stood up that day and protected our democracy, and we will be forever thankful to them.”

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, the ranking Republican on the Rules panel, said he was “incredibly grateful for the heroic actions we saw that day” from the police officers, noting that the first and last person he generally sees when he comes and goes from work is a Capitol Police officer.

“The Department is incredibly grateful for this honor bestowed upon us by Congress. Hopefully the world will never forget the bravery of every law enforcement officer who answered the call and defended our democracy on January 6,” newly installed Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he was “still stunned” that 21 House Republicans voted against the bill in June. That roster included Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, and Andrew Clyde and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — all of whom have repeatedly said they stand with law enforcement.

Clyde went so far to say that Jan. 6 was not an insurrection and compared the assault on the Capitol to a tourist visit. Gosar has cast the killing of Ashli Babbitt — a rioter who was fatally shot when she was trying to break into the Speaker’s Lobby where members were — as some sort of cover-up and has asked to identify the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Babbitt. The Department of Justice decided not to pursue charges against the officer.

Such positions have troubled officers who came close to death that day.

“The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful,” MPD Officer Michael Fanone said last week at the first public hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee to investigate the attack.

Former President Donald Trump, who encouraged his supporters at an earlier Jan. 6 rally to march on the Capitol, told The Washington Post that the people he addressed that day were a “loving crowd.”

“I’m still recovering from those hugs and kisses,” Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said at the select committee hearing, referring to Trump making light of the insurrection.

Republicans blocked an independent commission to look into the attack. When House Homeland Security ranking member John Katko, R-N.Y., secured a bipartisan deal with Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., to create an independent, 9/11-style commission, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and all but 35 House Republicans opposed it. While the bill passed the House, Senate Republicans blocked the measure, sinking hopes for the commission. McCarthy criticized the Jan. 6 select committee as partisan, and when Speaker Nancy Pelosi blocked two of his five picks to the panel, he withdrew all his nominees.

All this comes at a fragile time for the officers who defended the Capitol.

Just this past week, two Metropolitan Police officers who responded on Jan. 6 — Gunther Hashida and Kyle DeFreytag — died by suicide. To date, four officers have died by suicide since the insurrection: Hashida, DeFreytag, Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Jeffrey Smith of the MPD.

Over 140 combined MPD and Capitol Police officers were injured in the attack. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died shortly after the insurrection.

“Awarding the Congressional Gold Medal is a way to commemorate their sacrifice and make sure that the truth of Jan. 6 is recognized and remembered forever,” Schumer said on the floor.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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