Jan. 6 Gold Medal Ceremony Gets Awkward

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) holds out his hand for a handshake with Charles Sicknick (left), the father of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, during a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police officers in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) also attended. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON (CQ-Roll Call/TNS) — A Congressional Gold Medal ceremony Tuesday honoring Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was not without awkwardness.

Honorees visibly avoided handshakes with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a receiving line, after exchanging warm greetings with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

McCarthy, R-Calif., who is expected to be the next speaker of the House, praised the actions of law enforcement on Jan. 6. “These brave men and women are heroes, heroes who protected so many from harm on that day,” he said. “Days like today force us to realize how much we owe that thin blue line.”

Gladys Sicknick, mother of the late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, was among those to decline to shake hands with the top House and Senate Republicans.

“I’m just tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol Police is and then they turn around and … go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss his ring,” Sicknick told CNN, referring to former President Donald Trump.

Sicknick’s death on Jan. 7, 2021, was initially reported as resulting from his being struck by a fire extinguisher by rioters. On Feb. 2, his cremated remains were given the rare distinction of being laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. It wasn’t until April that the Washington medical examiner ruled that Sicknick had suffered two strokes on Jan. 7 and died of natural causes.

McCarthy and McConnell, R-Ky., have taken different approaches to Trump, and the former president has endorsed McCarthy for speaker while seeking for McConnell to be replaced.

The event came just as Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who has chaired the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot (including Trump’s role) was confirming to reporters that “we’ve made decisions that we will make referrals” to the Justice Department related to the investigation.

“We have not made a decision as to who, but we have made decisions that criminal referrals will happen,” Thompson said Tuesday.

McCarthy and the incoming House GOP majority are expected to disband the committee, with the committee members rushing to finish their work before the end of the current Congress on Jan. 3.

During the Gold Medal ceremony, Schumer thanked his own Capitol Police security detail for protecting him, his family and his staff.

“The dome of this Capitol is kept lit by day and night as an enduring symbol of our precious democracy,” Schumer said. “It is a message to the entire world that here in America, self-rule must forever serve as our bedrock.”

“On Jan. 6, that light flickered for a brief, harrowing moment, but it was rekindled anew thanks to the bravery of our Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police, and all our public servants who dedicate themselves to protecting this Capitol,” Schumer said.

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