In March 2021, the popular left-leaning Facebook page Occupy Democrats posted a meme condemning 12 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives for, according to the meme, voting against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to U.S. Capitol Police officers who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
Those 12 Republican House members did vote against a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Capitol Police in recognition of their role in protecting the Capitol from an attack by a “mob of insurrectionists” on Jan. 6.
However, what the Occupy Democrats meme failed to mention was that all but two of those 12 House members sponsored, co-sponsored, or supported one of two differently worded, alternative proposals that would either award the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police in recognition of their “services and sacrifices,” or express the House’s gratitude to those officers for protecting the Capitol from the Jan. 6 attack.
As a result of those significant omissions, we are issuing a rating of “Mixture.”
H.R. 1085 was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi back in February 2021. In brief, it arranges for the Congressional Gold Medal to be awarded to the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police and explicitly recognizes their role in the events of Jan. 6, as follows:
(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.
On March 17, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of passing the legislation, with 194 Republicans joining every Democrat in a final vote of 413-12. The 12 Republican members who voted against it were the 12 listed by Occupy Democrats.
Gohmert’s Alternative Proposal, H.R. 1965
Nine of the 12 members who voted against Pelosi’s bill subsequently co-sponsored H.R. 1965, a separate bill sponsored by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. (Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Greg Steube of Florida, and John Rose of Tennessee are the only three out of the dozen who have not yet signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 1965.)
Gohmert’s bill would also award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police. The text of the legislation was not yet available in the Congressional Record, as of March 19. However, Politico reporter Melanie Zanona tweeted what appears to be an authentic draft of the bill on March 17.
That draft praises the “essential” work of the Capitol Police and their “dedication” and proclaims that their “service and sacrifices…should be recognized and honored.” Remarkably, however, the document does not mention the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Snopes asked Gohmert why the draft contained such a striking omission, but we did not receive any response.
In light of the bill’s failure to even mention the Jan. 6 attack, we asked all 12 of the House members in question whether they support awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police specifically and explicitly for their roles in protecting the Capitol from the Jan. 6 attack.
We did not receive a response to that question from any of them, which leaves open the possibility that, while supportive of those law enforcement agencies in general, some of the House members do not wish to recognize, specifically, their efforts to guard the Capitol from an attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Nonetheless, Gohmert’s bill does propose awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Capitol Police, so it cannot reasonably be claimed that the 12 Republicans in question objected to H.R. 1085 on the basis that it would award those medals. Some other reasons must therefore exist for their “No” votes on March 17.
Why They Voted Against H.R. 1085
We asked all 12 members why they had voted against H.R. 1085. Only one responded on the record. A spokesperson for Rep. Michael Cloud of Texas told Snopes that he had objected to the original bill’s use of the word “temple” to describe the Capitol:
Instead of simply being about honoring the Capitol Police who bravely protected the Capitol on January 6th, Speaker Pelosi included damaging language that unnecessarily weighs down the bill. The text refers to the Capitol as the temple of democracy – simply put, it’s not a temple and Congress should not refer to it as one. The federal government is not a god.
In a statement released on March 17, Gohmert said:
Speaker Pelosi’s bill, HR 1085, does not honor anyone, but rather seeks to drive a narrative that isn’t substantiated by known facts. 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.
Snopes asked Gohmert’s spokesperson for details on which parts of Pelosi’s bill were factually inaccurate or misleading, but we did not receive any response.
On Twitter, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona said he voted against H.R. 1085 because it was, in his description, an effort by Democrats to “cover up” their recent support for a bill that “defunded police” and “took away their qualified immunity” — an apparent reference to H.R. 1280, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021. (Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia indicated that she opposed H.R. 1085 for similar reasons).
Biggs insisted that “I will always stand up for our law enforcement” and said he supported a separate resolution, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube of Florida, that he said “honors their [Capitol Police’s] heroism [without] pushing a hidden agenda.” Biggs is also a co-sponsor of Gohmert’s legislation.
Steube introduced H.Res. 43 on Jan. 12. It did not propose awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Capitol Police, but rather it proposed that the House of Representatives express its gratitude to the agency. However, Steube’s resolution did explicitly acknowledge the events of Jan. 6, describing the attack on the Capitol as a “siege,” explicitly condemning it, and adding that “the violence and lawlessness we saw on January 6, 2021 were unacceptable.” Biggs joined as a co-sponsor on March 18.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida wrote on Twitter that he had voted against H.R. 1085 because it “combined recognition of [Capitol Police] with editorial comments about January 6th. He added: “The brave men and women of the USCP deserve better, which is why I cosponsored [H.R. 1965] a clean recognition of their heroism with [Rep. Gohmert].”
In a tweet, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia did not clearly explain his vote against H.R. 1085, but suggested that he was opposed to Pelosi’s putative politicization of the events of Jan. 6, writing:
Law enforcement officers are worthy of gratitude and praise for their service and sacrifice in our communities every day, not just when politically convenient for Speaker Pelosi.
In a Facebook post, Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia indicated that he opposed H.R. 1085 and co-sponsored Gohmert’s bill because it would:
Properly honor the U.S. Capitol Police with the Congressional Gold Medal for their many decades of exceptional service, free from the partisan rhetoric and politicized language found in Speaker Pelosi’s H.R. 1085.
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky wrote on Twitter that he opposed H.R. 1085 because he “refused to call [his] constituents insurrectionists,” and because Democrats had “poisoned the resolution with hyperbolic language.” He told Roll Coll reporter Chris Cioffi: “I have a problem with the term insurrection….It could have implications for somebody’s prosecution later… Also calling this a `temple’ is a little too sacrilegious for me. This is not a religion here. This is a government.” Massie has not so far signed on as a co-sponsor of Gohmert’s bill, or Steube’s resolution.
Reps. Lance Gooden of Texas and Andy Harris of Maryland are both co-sponsors of Gohmert’s bill, but have not yet explained their votes against H.R. 1085 and did not respond to any of our questions.
Rep. John Rose of Tennessee has not so far signed on as a co-sponsor of either Gohmert’s bill or Steube’s resolution, has offered no explanation for his vote against H.R. 1085, and did not respond to any of Snopes’ questions.