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Why Congress’ Jan. 6 Gold Medal ceremony included a striking snub

It was not accidental when the family of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick decided not to shake Republican leaders' hands yesterday.


Nearly two years after the Jan. 6 attack, Congress finally recognized law enforcement personnel yesterday, extending the Congressional Gold Medal to officers from the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department. It is the institution’s highest honor.

It’s also, incidentally, an honor that some members did not want to bestow: When the House voted last year on the medals, 21 far-right Republicans balked at the resolution. It was a reminder that when some GOP officials boast about standing with law enforcement, it’s worth reading the fine print.

Nevertheless, one of the things that made yesterday’s ceremony unexpectedly interesting was an extended hand that went ignored. A video clip from the event in the Capitol Rotunda generated millions of views online for a reason:

It seems clear in the video that Republican leaders were deliberately snubbed, but it struck me as at least possible that it was accidental. It was not. NBC News reported:

The family of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died hours after defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, refused to shake hands with the two top Republican members of Congress at a Tuesday ceremony. ... They told NBC News after the event that passing on the opportunity to shake the GOP leaders’ hands was not a mistake.

“We got together and said we’re not going to shake their hands,” Gladys Sicknick, mother of the late officer, told NBC News. She went to explain that she has a problem with congressional Republicans who continue to support Donald Trump, even after Jan. 6.

They “go down to Mar-a-Lago and you know, kiss his ring or whatever the hell they do down there,” Sicknick added.

It’s worth noting for context that there was bipartisan support last year for an independent commission, modeled on the 9/11 Commission, to investigate the attack on the Capitol. Even after Democratic leaders agreed to the GOP’s terms, McConnell and McCarthy rejected the idea and helped kill the resolution.

The Senate minority leader, in particular, reportedly told his members he’d consider it a “personal favor“ if they helped derail the effort for an independent commission. McConnell made the partisan appeal even after meeting privately with Sicknick.

Evidently, she and the Sicknick family haven’t forgotten.

Sicknick’s brother Ken also characterized Republican leaders as hypocrites. “They came out right away and condemned what happened on January 6th. And then whatever hold that Trump has on them, they’ve backstepped. They’ve danced. They won’t admit to wrongdoing, not necessarily them themselves, but of Trump, of the rioters,” he told reporters.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s appearance at the event comes less than a week after he vowed to investigate the investigation into Jan. 6.