The medals were bestowed on law enforcement, and the family of deceased police officers, who defended the Capitol from a mob of rioters on Jan. 6, 2021. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thanked the recipients for “courageously answering the call to defend our democracy in one of the nation’s darkest hours.”
McConnel also thanked the recipients. “Thank you for saving our country,” he said “Thank you for being not just our friends but our heroes.” McCarthy echoed the sentiment, stating that he hoped “every American will see this award and feel the gratitude for every law enforcement officer who answered the call of duty every day, but especially the Capitol Police officers and the MPD.”
But the gratitude fell short for some of those honored in the ceremony. The family of officer Brian Sicknick, who died after suffering multiple strokes in the days after the attack, refused to shake hands with McConnell and McCarthy. Sicknick’s brother, Ken Sicknick, told CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane that the decision was spurred by Republican leadership failing to condemn Trump in the aftermath of the attack. “With them it’s party first,” Sicknick said. “Liz [Cheney] gave up her political career to do what was right.”
Sicknicks mother, Gladys Sicknick, told CNN that she felt the Republican leaders are “two-faced.”
“I’m just tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol police is,“ she elaborated, “and then they turn around and … go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss [Trump’s] ring and come back and stand here and sit with – it just, it just hurts.”
McCarthy met with former President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate weeks after the attack, and has said has vowed that if elected House speaker he plans to launch a counter-investigation against the Jan. 6 committee. Despite initially claiming that Trump bore a share of responsibility for the violence, McConnell opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, and voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial.
Multiple law enforcement officers accepting the medal on behalf of their departments also walked past the Republican leaders in the receiving line, despite McConnell attempting to shake the hands of the recipients.”
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, who accepted one of the medals, told NPR that he was making major changes to his department in order to prevent failures like those that took place on Jan. 6. In the future. “If you look at our intelligence operations, what we’re doing today, it’s just night and day in comparison to what we had before [January] 6th,” Manager said.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo), lambasted 26 of her Republican colleagues who had voted against honoring the officers. Cheney, who serves as vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee and was removed from her position as Republican conference chair for her criticism of Trump in the aftermath of the attack, told reporters on Tuesday that she doesn’t “see how anybody with any self-respect could vote against honoring the brave men and women who fought and defended the Capitol and the Constitution that day.”