The Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal — the legislative branch’s highest honor — to the U.S. Capitol Police and others who defended the Capitol against a violent mob of Trump supporters on Jan. 6.
Tuesday’s action closes out more than six months of quiet debate over how to best honor the officers who battled the rioters who were determined to disrupt the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6.
The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.
While the Capitol was breached by hundreds of rioters, police and National Guard forces were able to clear the building within hours, allowing the final certification of the 2020 election to take place early on the morning of Jan. 7. No member of Congress was physically harmed,
One Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died after confronting rioters, and four other officers who responded to the Capitol that day have died by suicide in the days and months since.
The legislation passed Tuesday honors “the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2020.” It authorizes the striking of four medals, to be distributed to the Capitol Police and the D.C. police department, as well as to the Architect of the Capitol and the Smithsonian Institution, who are directed to put their medals on public display.
The Senate initially passed legislation awarding the medal to Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who was captured on video luring rioters away from the Senate chamber, giving crucial time to secure lawmakers inside the chamber — and eventually escape. But the House — intent on honoring those whose heroism was not caught on video — pushed for a broader award honoring the Capitol Police force as a whole, as well as others who helped repel the attack.
The House passed a broader measure in June on a 406-21 vote. All 21 votes in opposition were from Republicans, many of whom objected to wording in the legislation that referred to the riot as an “insurrection” and to the Capitol as the “the temple of our American Democracy.”
Before the Senate approved that bill Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he was “still stunned” by the GOP opposition in the House. But, he added, “the Senate is different.”
“It is the highest expression of gratitude that Congress can bestow,” he said. “I cannot imagine more worthy recipients than the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this temple of democracy.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also spoke ahead of the bill’s passage, calling the medal “a clear message to law enforcement officers that we’re united in our appreciation of all they do to keep us safe.”
And Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called the medal part of a larger process of remembrance and commemoration. She had she expected that children would see the medals on display at the Smithsonian or at the Capitol.
“Their parents are going to be able to tell them, this happened,” she said. “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.”