WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor this morning, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, urged her colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation to issue congressional gold medals to recognize the service and sacrifice of United States Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol on January 6 by unanimous consent. The Senate adopted the bill passed by the House on June 15 by a vote of 406-21. This now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Mr. President, I thank Senator Schumer for his leadership, the fact that we in the Senate were able to come unanimously behind this important, important resolution, which I will describe in a minute. And I also thank Senator McConnell and I certainly thank my friend, Senator Blunt, for his leadership. We must pass this legislation honoring the Capitol Police and other heroes who protected the Capitol on January 6th by awarding them this congressional gold medal.
Senator Blunt joined me from the beginning in sponsoring the Senate version of this legislation – and work with me on the Rules Committee – and thank you to the Presiding Officer, Senator Padilla, for his great service on that committee to continue the work of getting to the bottom of the security, planning, and response failures that we saw on January 6th.
While that work goes on, it is important that we recognize the bravery and patriotism of those who defended our democracy – and our lives – with Congress’s highest honor.
The insurrection at the Capitol was more than an assault on democracy – oh, it was that in a big, big way, but it was also an actual life or death situation for the many brave law enforcement officers who show up here to do their work every day.
We will never forget the haunting shrieks of the police officer pinned in between the doors at the hands of rioters, pleading for help.
We will never forget Officer Harry Dunn, who told his story again last week at the House Select Committee, recounting how he fought against the violent mob for hours, and after it was all over, broke down in tears telling fellow officers in the rotunda he’d been called the N-word multiple times that day. And he looked at his friend, his fellow officer, and said: “Is this America?”
These medals today, these congressional gold medals that will be displayed for millions to see – one at the Smithsonian, one in this Capitol, one at the Metropolitan Police, one with the Capitol Police – they answer that question. No, Officer Dunn, that was not America. But these medals that recognize your bravery, this is America.
Or then our own Officer Eugene Goodman, who after saving Senator Romney from walking directly into the mob of insurrectionists, ran by himself to take on a group of rioters, and then diverted that mob away – we’ve all seen it on the video, we know what he was doing – allowing the rest of us to safely depart.
Tragically, the attack on the Capitol also cost the lives of four brave officers, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick who died the day following the attack. And I had the honor to meet his family.
Four other officers died following the events of January 6th: D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, his colleagues Gunther Hashida and Kyle DeFreytag – whose passings were – whose passing was reported just yesterday – and of course, Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood.
We are also so inspired by the work of their loved ones who have come to Capitol Hill to fight for a 9/11-style commission, to look at the insurrection and why it happened, to get to the bottom of it, and to advocate for the Capitol Police to support their officers.
It has been reported that at least 140 more officers sustained injuries from defending the Capitol. The courage of these officers will be remembered forever.
We responded. Senator Blunt and I joined with Senators Portman and Peters on the Homeland Security Committee to interview officials from multiple agencies and review thousands of documents. We convened major public hearings and then interviewed many, many other witnesses.
Our resulting bipartisan joint report focused on the security, planning, and response failures related to the violent and unprecedented insurrection at the Capitol – and it includes key findings and recommendations that must be put in place without delay.
I am pleased that we have introduced our bipartisan bill which will make sure that the new police chief will be able to call in help from the National Guard without calling a bunch of other people in the middle of a crisis. We have just passed on a bipartisan basis, thanks to Senators Leahy and Shelby, major security funding that will help to give the police the resources they need and fund the improvements needed to this Capitol. We also have put in place two new Sergeants-at-Arms, one in the Senate, one in the House, as well as a new police chief, Chief Manger, who I just met with for a lengthy period of time yesterday to go over all of our recommendations. And by the end of the year, I will appear in this chamber with a checklist to make sure that they are either done being implemented or in the process of being implemented to be done soon.
Another key priority that we called for in our report was advanced last week when the President signed into law, as I said, all of the funding that we need. And what that includes that I didn’t mention, $4.4 million for mental health support for Capitol Police officers and the many officers that are still dealing, as we can see, with trauma to this day.
Passing this bill – which, of course, already passed the House and yes, I agree with Senator Schumer about how it is impossible to understand why some people voted against it, but it still passed with bipartisan support – is another step forward to honoring the heroism and sacrifice of our law enforcement.
Those medals, when the little kids walk by and see them at the Smithsonian, their parents are going to be able to tell them, “This happened. 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. We’re hearing a lot about gold medals, and some have been won by our own USA Team – we’re so proud – the last week at the Olympics. Well, this is our Olympics, this is our gold medal, and it goes today to the Capitol Police officers and to the Metropolitan Police officers and others that protected us that day.
I thank Senator Blunt, who’s here with us as well.
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