Washington’s political and lobbying scene, which is ordinarily abuzz with activity this time of year as lawmakers get to work in the new Congress, largely took a pause this week in response to the shootings in Arizona.
Fundraising was postponed, K Street welcome receptions for new Members put off, health care campaigns delayed and even a local political trivia night canceled as lobbyists, lawmakers and the Capitol Hill community responded to the weekend’s killings and attempted assassination on a Member.
“Whether it’s a birthday or a fundraiser or a welcome reception, it doesn’t seem in good taste when there are people who have gone through a tragedy and are grieving,” said Monica Notzon, a GOP fundraiser.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was postponing all political events, fundraisers and communications regarding health care reform as a result of the shooting, which left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) critically injured and six others dead.
One canceled event is a reception this evening at Tortilla Coast hosted by the political action committee of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of centrist lawmakers to which Giffords belongs.
Democratic fundraiser Mike Fraioli said that his clients would not be making phone calls soliciting campaign contributions this week, either.
“People are in a reflective mood. They are focusing on the tragedy at hand,” he said.
The Democratic strategist likened the pause to the period after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when most political activity ceased. As in 2001, Fraioli said, individual lawmakers will decide when they feel comfortable resuming their routine activities.
Some trade groups and industry lobbyists were also taking a break from their normal beginning-of-session schmoozing with Members. Restaurant interests postponed a welcome reception planned for freshmen and other friends that was scheduled for today.
“Given the circumstances, we felt it was the right thing to do,” said Jeff Pannozzo, director of government affairs in the Washington, D.C., office of Yum Brands Inc., the parent company of several fast-food chains including A&W, KFC, Long John Silver’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Yum Brands planned to host the reception at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar along with the National Restaurant Association and several chains including Outback, McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts.
The event is expected to be rescheduled for Feb. 8, when Congress will likely be back in session.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.