Democrats and Republicans united in praise for their colleague, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and remembered the six who died during the shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday.
The House had been scheduled to vote Wednesday on repealing the Obama health care law, but members instead spent the day echoing bipartisan support for a resolution put forth by Speaker John Boehner condemning the attacks “in the strongest possible terms.”
The floor session began in the morning with Boehner, R-Ohio, setting the tone. “We are brought here today to mourn,” he said.
Boehner began choking back tears and brought out a handkerchief as he talked about the House’s new need for strength and solidarity. His voice cracked as he told members about the continued need to “faithfully fulfill our oath of office.”
“And, we will do it, God willing, with Gabrielle Giffords,” he said. “Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is not.”
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., followed suit. Dressed in all-black, she often softened her voice as she spoke about the victims. “Words are inadequate at a time like this,” she said. She also said that Boehner’s resolution was “excellent.”
“I hope people will read it, pray over it, and be grateful that we have this opportunity to comment on it,” Pelosi said.
The House approved the resolution shortly before 6 p.m.
A ‘pause’ in the work of the House
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., made the point of Wednesday’s session explicit: “This week we pause the work of the House, to mourn the lost lives of six citizens.”
The representatives who spoke often ensured this “pause” was both bipartisan and personal.
The next two Republicans to speak were from Giffords’ home state. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., noted Giffords ability in the hospital bed to listen and respond by squeezing hands and raising fingers. “These traits, listening and responding, have defined Gabby Giffords’ career,” Flake said.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said he knew Giffords since before she ran for office. He had even shopped in the same Safeway where the shooting happened.
“Gabby has brought us all together as never before,” Engel said.
Even freshman Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., spoke about the tragedy despite this being only his second week in office. “I barely know Gabby,” Duncan said. “But I rise today in concert with our friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
Moments later, the dean of the House, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., strayed briefly from the bipartisan consensus of the day. Having been a House member, he listed off a number of quotes from conservative leaders “that I find to be pretty awful.”
He singled out Sarah Palin, without naming her. “As a lifetime rifleman and shooter, I know what crosshairs signify when you put them on someone.”
But Rep. Dan Lundgren, R-Calif., quickly followed with a lighthearted anecdote. He got a letter from a constituent who voted against him, disagreed with him, and even got angry with him, but promised that he’d protect his Representative in the line of fire.
The constituent told Lundgren he’d be safe in his district, but to “please try and not be such an idiot Republican about it.”
President to speak Wednesday night
The president is scheduled to speak on Wednesday night. The theme of the service is, “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America.” The event is expected to begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time (6 p.m. Mountain time) and last about an hour.