House Members offered each other comfort and shared stories about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Sunday during their first briefing since their colleague was shot Saturday.
More than 800 people, including Members, their spouses and staff members, participated in Sunday’s conference call. Pia Carusone, Giffords’ chief of staff, briefed listeners on her boss’s condition, while House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse offered information on security matters.
The rare bipartisan call marked a moment of civility, during which Members from both sides of the aisle offered their prayers and assistance to Giffords, her staff and her family, Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said.
“Gabrielle Giffords is a pretty extraordinary Member,” Larson told reporters after the call. “When someone engenders that kind of feeling amongst members, I think there is just such a feeling of cooperation and graciousness.”
Larson said the call “is the kind of thing that shows Congress at its best, to be quite frank.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced during the call that an in-person briefing would take place Wednesday, during which Members will again hear from Livingood and representatives from the Capitol Police and FBI, according to a statement from Boehner’s office. Larson and Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) are organizing Wednesday’s briefing, according to the statement.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also issued an updated schedule for the week ahead, noting that the chamber will meet in pro forma session Tuesday and will take up a resolution Wednesday honoring Giffords and the other victims of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, Ariz. Legislation that would repeal the sweeping health care overhaul law was originally scheduled for a vote Wednesday, but that has been postponed.
Republicans are still expected to gather in Baltimore on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for an annual issues retreat.
Boehner denounced the attack in Tucson at a news conference Saturday morning. In his afternoon statement, the Speaker said the upcoming week presents an opportunity for Members to cast aside partisan wrangling in order to rally around their colleague.
“What is critical is that we stand together at this dark time as one body. We need to rally around our wounded colleague, the families of the fallen, and the people of Arizona’s 8th District. And, frankly, we need to rally around each other,” Boehner said.
He added: “This is a time for the House to lock arms, both in condemnation of this heinous act, and in prayer for those killed and wounded in this attack. At a time when an individual has shown us humanity at its worst, we must rise to the occasion for our nation and show Congress at its best.”
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.