Shock turned to mourning Monday on Capitol Hill as Members and staff tried to come to terms with the Arizona shooting tragedy that included the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Members and aides joined President Barack Obama in observing a moment of silence at 11 a.m. to honor the 20 victims, and hundreds filled the Cannon Caucus Room later in the afternoon for an interfaith prayer service. Many of them stood in line in the Cannon rotunda to sign books of well wishes and condolences. The mood all around was somber.
The House is expected to keep its regular business on hold this week, focusing instead on the shooting that occurred at a Giffords constituent event Saturday morning in Tucson. The chamber will be in pro forma session today; aides said they expect Members will use the time to pay tribute on the floor to the Arizona Democrat and the attack’s other victims. Giffords remains in intensive care after being shot in the head. The suspect, who is in custody and has been charged, is 22-year-old Jared Loughner.
Members are expected to consider a bipartisan resolution on Wednesday that Republican and Democratic leadership aides were working to draft Monday. The resolution is expected to pay tribute to the victims, offer condolences to the families, condemn the attack and commend the bravery of those who stopped Giffords’ shooter and tried to help the injured. Also Wednesday, Members are expected to participate in a bipartisan prayer service at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center.
The House is expected to agree to the resolution by unanimous consent — rather than by recorded vote — and leaders in both parties are expected to jointly introduce it.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz said Monday’s moment of silence was especially important for staffers who “put themselves out there as well.” The tragedy claimed the life of Giffords staffer Gabe Zimmerman, 30. Two other Giffords aides, Ron Barber and Pam Simon, were also seriously injured.
“It’s a time to be together, as anyone who has ever dealt with tragedy or grief or serious illness or death — it’s a time when reaching out to each other is very important,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said.
Schwartz added that a bipartisan conference call for Members and staff on Sunday was a helpful way to begin the healing and allow people to grieve.
“There certainly was a sense that this was one time that we are all in this together. We certainly feel deeply for Gabby as our colleague and friend. And many of us, across both sides of the aisle, we want to make sure that we are safe, and that our families can feel secure,” she said.