The stated purpose of HR 3325 seemed pretty uncontroversial: “To award four congressional gold medals to the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
So why did 21 House Republicans vote against the measure on Wednesday?
Good question! Let’s answer it.
The measure was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as, ostensibly, a goodwill gesture to honor the US Capitol Police – and other law enforcement officers – who responded to the violent riot at the US Capitol on January 6.
Here’s the relevant text from the bill itself:
(1) Every day, the United States Capitol Police (“Capitol Police”) protects the U.S. Capitol, Members of Congress, congressional staff and institutional staff, journalists, and the visiting public.
(2) 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.
(3) 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.
(4) Up to seven Americans died following this violent attack, and more than 140 law enforcement officers suffered physical injuries, including 15 officers who were hospitalized.
(5) The desecration of the U.S. Capitol, which is the temple of our American Democracy, and the violence targeting Congress are horrors that will forever stain our Nation’s history.
Now, for those who voted against it – which reads like a “who’s who” of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent defenders and those who, in the months since the riot, have sought to recast it as something other than what it was.
So Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz was a no. So was Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. And Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert. And Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, who last month described the January 6 riot as a “normal tourist visit.” (See the full list here.)
What, specifically, did this group of 21 object to? Well, not all explained their reasoning, but for those who did, several cited the use of the word “insurrection” to describe the events of that day as their issue.
“I think if we call that an insurrection, it could have a bearing on their case that I don’t think would be good,” explained Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie to The Hill newspaper. “If they just wanted to give the police recognition, they could have done it without trying to make it partisan, without sticking that in there.”
(Sidebar: According to Dictionary.com, an insurrection is “an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government.” Which, given that five people died and more than 100 police officers were wounded during the violent storming of the US Capitol, certainly suggests that January 6 fits the bill of an insurrection.)
Greene told Politico’s Melanie Zanona that she didn’t like the word “insurrection” used and also objected to the legislation calling the Capitol the “temple of American democracy.”
And here’s Gohmert on his “no” vote: “Speaker Pelosi’s bill, HR 3325, doesn’t honor the USCP but drives a narrative not substantiated by facts. Our brave Capitol Police deserve the upmost respect, which is why I have introduced a bill that serves as a tribute to our officers rather than using them as political pawns.” (And, yes, he wrote “upmost respect.”)
Good times. Gooooood times.
Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a vocal critic of Trump and the former President’s allies within the GOP, was dumbfounded by the votes of his 21 colleagues. “How you can vote no to this is beyond me,” he tweeted. “Then again, denying an insurrection is as well. To the brave Capitol (and DC metro PD) thank you. To the 21: they will continue to defend your right to vote no anyway.”
Make no mistake what these 21 Republicans are trying to do: Rewrite the history of January 6 to make Trump – and his incitement of the rioters – look less bad. But here’s the thing: We all saw the images. We know what happened. And we can’t (and shouldn’t) forget.