On April 16, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Jack Nicklaus 'in recognition of his service to the Nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf.'
The measure, which still must be approved by the Senate, passed 373-4. The “nay” votes were cast by four Republicans: Justin Amash of Michigan, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Scott Rigell of Virginia.
Congressional Gold Medals have been awarded more than 150 times. According to the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, 'Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients.'
Golfers Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer have been among Congressional Gold Medal recipients. When Palmer came up for a vote in 2009, current presidential candidate Ron Paul was the lone dissenting voice.
The website Deadspin contacted the offices of the four dissenting congressmen for the reasons behind their no votes.
A spokesman for Rep. Amash referred to Amash’s Facebook page, where he wrote that he did not believe Nicklaus was in the company of other recipients such as George Washington or the Wright Brothers.
'I think the original purpose of the Congressional Gold Medal is better than Congress's modern practice,' Amash wrote. 'Jack Nicklaus had a legendary golfing career. But I think it's better to reserve the medal for those whose heroism and self-sacrifice was made to save the lives of others.'
A spokesman for Rep. Rigell echoed the sentiment, saying, 'The Congressman believes these awards should only be handed out to those who have sacrificed their lives protecting our freedom.'
Representatives Chaffetz and Ribble believed the vote was a waste of legislative time.
'As members of Congress we need to be doing real work, not just filling time — especially when our economy is struggling and our nation is $15 trillion in debt. As a golfer myself, I love Jack Nicklaus, but I love my grandchildren more,' Ribble said.
Chaffetz, who voted in favor of awarding the medal to Palmer in 2009, did not believe the time was appropriate for such a vote.
'Congress has better ways to spend their time and more important things to do than making and passing resolutions for golfers,' Chaffetz said.