U.S. Capitol Police are expected to be awarded Congress' highest honor — a Congressional Gold Medal — after the House of Representatives approved legislation honoring the group for its service during the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riots.
The bill, which heads to the Senate after the House overwhelmingly passed it Wednesday in a vote of 413 to 12, would authorize the creation of three medals to display at Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters and at the Smithsonian Institute (the latter for "research").
Despite the bipartisan support, a dozen Republicans voted against the measure — spearheaded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — due to issues they had with the way it was worded.
In describing the events of the riots, the bill reads: "On January 6, 2021, a mob of insurrectionists forced its way into the U.S. Capitol building and congressional office buildings and engaged in acts of vandalism, looting, and violently attacked Capitol Police officers."
Some of those who voted against it said they took issue with the word "insurrections" to characterize those who breached the Capitol complex, forcing the evacuation of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as the mob ransacked offices and called out for politicians like then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer. A rioter was fatally shot by police.
One of the Republicans to vote against the measure, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, introduced a competing measure on Wednesday, saying in a statement that what was passed by the House "seeks to drive a narrative that isn't substantiated by known facts."
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who also voted against the bill, said it combined recognition of the officers with "editorial comments."
In a video posted to her Facebook page, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene — a freshman lawmaker with a history of provocation — said her "no" vote was the result of Pelosi and other Democrats passing a police reform bill two weeks ago.
The Republican said she didn't agree that every single person who entered the Capitol was an "insurrectionist."
Greene also took issue with the description of the Capitol as a "temple of our American Democracy" in the bill passed Wednesday. "This Capitol is not a temple," Greene said. "I will not vote for that."
In addition to awarding a medal to the Capitol Police, the bill specifically calls out Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died during the riot, as well as Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood and Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith, both of whom killed themselves following the attack.
"The sacrifice of heroes including Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith, and those who sustained injuries, and the courage of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, exemplify the patriotism and the commitment of Capitol Police officers, and those of other law enforcement agencies, to risk their lives in service of our country," the bill reads.
In February, Congress passed a separate measure to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who played an integral role in protecting lawmakers from the violent riots, leading the attackers away from the Senate chamber.
The Capitol Police also faced more systemic criticism for the response to the events of Jan. 6. In a closed-door January hearing with the House Appropriations Committee, the acting Capitol Police chief, Yogananda D. Pittman, apologized on behalf of the department.
"Let me be clear: the Department should have been more prepared for this attack," Pittman said, according to a transcript obtained by The New York Times.
"We fully expect to answer to you and the American people for our failings on Jan. 6th," added Pittman, who on Jan. 8 took over as acting chief from Steven Sund, who resigned in the wake of the riots.
Lawmakers have announced plans for a commission to review security failures that allowed people to storm the building as well as one that would investigate what role former President Donald Trump, 74, played in the deadly attack.
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