Last week, I caught up with the commemorative legislation that has been submitted for consideration. This week, with congress on their spring break, I want to run down the Gold Medals that congress proposes to award.
The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is the highest and most distinguished civilian award in the United States. Since first awarding the Gold Medal of Honor to General George Washington in 1776, there have been over 250 recipients, both individuals and groups. There have been two two-time winners: Major General Winfield Scott and John Horn, Jr.; and three-time winner Major General Zachary Taylor.
In order to award the Congressional Gold Medal, a member has to introduce a bill to gain congress’s consent. The introduction to the bill, what I call the “where as” section, describes why the person or group is deserving of the honor. Included in the bill is an authorization to the US Mint to strike bronze duplicates of the medal. Similarly, the design of the medal must go through the same design approval process as coins, involving the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.
Before one of these bills to be considered, the House Committee on Financial Services requires that Gold Medal legislation be co-sponsored by 75-percent of the members, the same as for commemorative coins. Currently none of the legislation that has been introduces has reached that threshold. As with commemorative legislation, there are no similar rules in the Senate.
Unlike bills for commemorative coins, proceeds from the sale of the duplicate bronze medals are paid into the US Mint Public Enterprise Fund where all seignorage from the US Mint is deposited. These bills also allow the Mint to withdraw funds to support the design and creation of the gold medal and bronze duplicates.
Here is a list of the legislation introduced to award the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in the 111th congress:
H.R. 289: To authorize the President to posthumously award a gold medal on behalf of the Congress to the seven members of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia in recognition of their outstanding and enduring contributions to the Nation. Introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) on January 8, 2009, with no current co-sponsors.
H.R. 304: To award a congressional gold medal to Joseph Barnett Kirsner, M.D., Ph.D., in recognition of his many outstanding contributions to the Nation. Introduced by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL) on January 8, 2009, with one co-sponsor.
H.R. 347: To grant the congressional gold medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, United States Army, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II. Introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) on January 8, 2009, currently with 225 co-sponsors.
H.R. 406: To award a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of Alice Paul’s role in the women’s suffrage movement and in advancing equal rights for women. Introduced by Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) on January 9, 2009, currently with 107 co-sponsors.
H.R. 1235: To award a Congressional Gold Medal to Ray Charles in recognition of his many contributions to the Nation. Introduced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) on February 26, 2009. This bill currently has no co-sponsors.
H.R. 1243: To provide for the award of a gold medal on behalf of Congress to Arnold Palmer in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf. Introduced by Rep. Joe Baca (R-CA) on March 2, 2009. With 302 co-sponsors, this is short of the 324 to be placed on the committee’s calendar.
H.R. 1244: To provide for the award of a gold medal on behalf of the Congress to Tiger Woods, in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship, and in breaking barriers with grace and dignity by showing that golf is a sport for all people. Apparently, Rep. Joe Baca (R-CA) is a golf fan because he introduced this bill on March 2, 2009, right after he introduced H.R. 1243 (see above). There are currently no co-sponsors for this bill.
H.R. 1278: To posthumously award a Congressional gold medal to Shirley Chisholm. Introduced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) on March 3, 2009. Rangel represents New York’s 15th District that includes all of upper Manhattan and is very identified with the Harlem community. This bill has no co-sponsors.
H.R. 1484: To award a Congressional Gold Medal to Rabbi Arthur Schneier in recognition of his pioneering role in promoting religious freedom and human rights throughout the world, for close to half a century. Introduced by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) on March 12, 2009. Maloney represents New York’s 14th District where Rabbi Schneier is the spiritual leader of the Park East Synagogue.
S. 614: A bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (“WASP”). Introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) on March 17, 2009. This bill currently has 35 co-sponsors.
S. 768: A bill to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the soldiers from the United States who were prisoners of war at Bataan during World War II. Introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) on April 1, 2009, with 7 co-sponsors.
Just like commemorative coins bills, all bills introduced in the House of Representatives have been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. Those introduced in the Senate are referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.