U.S. House passes bill that would award Jack Nicklaus the Congressional Gold Medal

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would award Jack Nicklaus the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the U.S. Congress can bestow on civilians.

House and Senate committee rules require that bills awarding Congressional Gold Medals be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the members of each chamber. The Nicklaus bill had 337 co-sponsors in the House—well above the 288 it needed—but when voted upon Monday night, it was passed by an overwhelming 373-4 votes. The Senate now has to pass the bill, with at least 67 co-sponsors, before the medal can be awarded.

The overwhelming House vote and the decision to bring it to the floor is seen as a significant part of the honor in and by itself. “Just the fact the legislation was introduced and that the House then voted in favor of it is very special and meaningful to me,” said Nicklaus. “I feel humbled and blessed just to be considered.”

The bill’s sponsor is Representative Joe Baca, a California Democrat and co-chairman of the Congressional Pro Sports Caucus’s Golf Task Force. Rep. Baca said in a written statement that he had taken up the cause for a Nicklaus medal because of Jack’s “leadership, his sportsmanship, and his great record of giving back through philanthropy.”

“With 118 national and international titles, including 18 major championships, Jack’s golfing accomplishments are amazing. But his record of giving back and helping others is even greater,” Rep. Baca added.

The first Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to George Washington by the Continental Congress in 1776, less than four months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The medals were initially awarded only to war heroes. Later recipients have included aviator Charles Lindbergh, inventor Thomas Edison, composer Irving Berlin, entertainment magnate Walt Disney, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.