Bickering Over Words, 12 Republicans Vote To Withhold Congressional Honor From Police

"I cannot support partisan charged language found in this bill," Rep. Andy Harris said after voting against giving the Capitol Police the Congressional Gold Medal.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to award the U.S. Capitol Police and other defenders of the Capitol complex with Congressional Gold Medals on Wednesday following the deadly Jan. 6 riot in Washington.

The vote was nearly unanimous, with every Democrat and 194 Republicans voting to award the medals. The highest honor bestowed by Congress expresses “national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.” At least two-thirds of the chamber must sign on to co-sponsor the legislation, and Wednesday’s bill ― sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ― had 333 signatories out of 435 members, or more than three-quarters. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass after it is reconciled with another measure that chamber passed in February.

Twelve House Republicans, however, voted no: Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Bob Good (Va.), Lance Gooden (Texas), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Andy Harris (Md.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), John Rose (Tenn.) and Greg Steube (Fla.).

HuffPost has reached out to all 12 Republicans who voted against awarding the medals.

Many of those lawmakers homed in on two specific words in the bill: The language that describes the Capitol as a “temple” of American democracy and another line that categorizes the mob of pro-Donald Trump supporters that stormed the building as “insurrectionists.” The legislation would also create three medals, one to be displayed at U.S. Capitol Police headquarters, one at the headquarters of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and another at the Smithsonian Institution.

“We had to combine it with these editorial comments about the January 6 sequence of events, and then we had to logroll it with this exhibit at the Smithsonian, and … that was a little much for me,” Gaetz said after his no vote, according to The Washington Post.

Gohmert said Wednesday that the bill “does not honor anyone,” instead saying it sought to “drive a narrative that isn’t substantiated by known facts.” He introduced his own legislation before the vote to remove what he called offending language, but it did not move forward.

“We absolutely do want to show our gratitude and respect for the U.S. Capitol Police, so I removed the Speaker’s false and politicized narrative in order to arrive at legislation that truly honors those who selflessly serve us in Congress,” Gohmert said.

Harris also blasted Pelosi on Wednesday, accusing her of using the police as “props for politically charged publicity stunts.”

“I truly commend the Capitol Police for their actions on January 6th, and am very grateful for their service in keeping us safe each day,” he said in a statement to the Post. “But I cannot support partisan charged language found in this bill.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene echoed that criticism.

“This Capitol is not a temple. I will not give that a stamp of my approval,” Greene said in her own comments on Facebook, lambasting the bill as a move by Democrats who “felt bad” for their votes on police reform efforts. “She calls every single person that entered the capitol on Jan. 6 an insurrectionist. While at the same time Democrats have never called Antifa or BLM ‘insurrectionist.’”

Antifa, a shorthand term for anti-fascist protesters, and Black Lives Matter are largely peaceful movements, but the terms have become dog whistles used by some Republican lawmakers to detract from the pro-Trump elements who stormed the Capitol (the rioters themselves have resisted those claims, too).

A hearse carrying the remains of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick departs the Capitol on Feb. 3. Sicknick died after being attacked by Donald Trump supporters at the Capitol.
A hearse carrying the remains of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick departs the Capitol on Feb. 3. Sicknick died after being attacked by Donald Trump supporters at the Capitol.
ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via via Getty Images

The statements did not go over well with Democrats. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the votes were “unfortunate” and said efforts to water down the legislation were “disgusting.”

“The alternative resolution they have proposed insults the memory of the officer who was killed defending the Capitol and the two others who died as a result of the attack in its immediate aftermath, using language implying that the three officers did not lose their lives in the line of duty,” Hoyer said in a statement. “Such disrespect for the heroes who courageously tried to protect the American people’s Capitol is disgusting.”

The Congressional Gold Medals voted on Wednesday were not the first.

The Senate last month voted to award Officer Eugene Goodman, who helped protect lawmakers during the riot and steer an angry mob from the Senate chamber, the Congressional Gold Medal.

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