By Courtney Subramanian
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden declared it a "bittersweet moment" before he signed a bill to award Congressional Gold Medals to officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, days after District of Columbia officials announced two police officers who responded to the attack took their own lives.
The Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian honors, was given to the U.S. Capitol Police, the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement members in a White House Rose Garden ceremony, where both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered remarks.
"While the attack on our values and our votes shocked and saddened the nation, our democracy did survive," Biden said before an audience of members of law enforcement, lawmakers and families of fallen police officers. "Truth defeated lies. We did overcome. And that's because of the women and men of the U.S. Capitol Police, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement officials we honor today.
The medals will be displayed in four locations: Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian Institute.
Biden’s signature came after the Senate Tuesday voted unanimously to award the medals. The bill cleared the House in June with a final vote of 406-21. All 21 votes came from Republicans, underscoring the partisan tensions over what unfolded during the attack.
"America owes you a debt we can never fully repay. But I know receiving this award is bittersweet," Biden said as he recalled the more than 140 officers who suffered injuries as a violent mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of Biden's election victory.
Earlier this week the Metropolitan Police Department announced Officer Gunther Hashida, an 18-year veteran on the force, was found dead at his residence last Thursday. Hours later, the department confirmed Kyle DeFreytag died by suicide in mid-July, bringing the total number of officers who have taken their lives in the wake of the riot to four.
Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called the president's signing of the bill "an important step to recognize their patriotism and sacrifice as we work to move our democracy forward."
"On January 6th front line law enforcement officers performed heroically under unimaginable circumstances. They defended not only the Capitol, but our democracy itself," she said in a statement.