21 Republicans oppose awarding medals for Capitol defence

Medals will still be awarded, though Republican no votes draw criticism from across political aisle.

Representative Paul Gosar listens during a House Oversight and Reform Committee on the January 6 attack on the US Capitol on May 12, 2021 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP Photo]

Members of the US Republican party are coming under fire after 21 voted against a bill to award Capitol police officers gold medals for their acts during the January 6 riot that attempted to block the transition of power in the US.

Both the Senate and House agreed to award the medals, but the final vote in the House of Representatives was 406-21. All 21 votes votes against the bill came from Republicans, some of whom aired their differences of opinion about the events of January 6.

The riot was attended largely by supporters of former President Donald Trump who came from myriad far-right and anti-government groups, and the QAnon movement that believes Trump was chosen to defeat a cabal of international “Deep State” liberal elites who traffic children for their blood to stay young.

They attempted to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Five died after the riot, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.

Members of the far-right group Proud Boys gather as supporters of former President Donald Trump in front of the US Capitol Building to protest the certification of the 2020 US election [File: Jim Urquhart/Reuters]

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, infamous for her past support of aspects of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement and previously claiming that a “Jewish Laser” caused wildfires, voted against the bill.

“I wouldn’t call it an insurrection,” Greene told reporters after the vote.

Republicans also said they did not agree with other aspects of the bill’s language, including using the word “temple” to describe the Capitol complex.

Greene joined Representative Thomas Massie in saying the Capitol is not a temple.

Representative Paul Gosar voted against the bill. He said before the vote that the Trump supporter killed while breaking into Congress on January, Ashli Babbitt, was “executed” by law enforcement when they fired shots through the doors of the House chamber.

Babbitt was part of a mob that had gathered, threatening law enforcement to get out of the way and breaking glass in barricaded doors leading down a corridor to the Speaker’s Lobby, the hallway outside the House chamber where members of the US Congress were sheltering. The police officer had his gun drawn and opened fire when Babbitt attempted to climb through one of the broken panes.

The officer was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting by the US Justice Department ruling that it was reasonable to believe that he was firing in self-defence or in defence of Congressional representatives.

Gosar is pushing to have the name of the police officer who shot Babbitt revealed. He has previously faced criticism for praising Babbitt, a 14-year veteran of the US Air Force, in a tweet that quoted lyrics from the band U2: “They took her life. They could not take her pride.”

The comments drew criticism from Republican Senator Liz Cheney, who often draws ire from the Republican party for crossing Trump.

“On January 6, as the violent mob advanced on the House chamber, I was standing near [Gosar] and helped him open his gas mask. The Capitol Police led us to safety. It is disgusting and despicable to see Gosar lie about that day and smear the men and women who defended us,” Cheney said on Twitter.

The Justice Department has arrested more than 400 people in relation to January 6. Most are charged with misdemeanours, including trespassing. However, there are allegations some of the rioters had plans to harm elected officials.

Representative Adam Kinzinger also called out his Republican colleagues.

“How you can vote no to this is beyond me,” Kinzinger, himself an Airforce veteran, said in a tweet. “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.”

While the nay votes were low, Republicans broadly oppose continued investigation into the January 6 riot. Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan investigation in May.

Three gold medals will be distributed, in spite of the sliver of Republicans who voted against the bill.

One will be given to the Capitol Police force as a whole, another to the Metropolitan Police Department and the third to the Smithsonian Institution with a plaque that lists law enforcement agencies involved in the defence of the Capitol.

Source: Al Jazeera