Speaker John Boehner will host a cocktail party for the Republican National Committee at the same time that President Barack Obama will be addressing the nation at the memorial service for victims of the Tucson shooting.
The Ohio Republican is holding a 7 p.m. cocktail reception Wednesday night for 168 RNC members, who are in the Washington area for an annual meeting. The event is sponsored by Boehner’s political action committee and will take place at Maryland’s National Harbor resort.
The RNC party coincides with the 8 p.m. EST memorial ceremony at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where Obama will honor the victims of Saturday’s shooting rampage that left six dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is in critical condition.
A Boehner aide said the Speaker plans to leave the RNC party before Obama begins his remarks.
“Speaker Boehner will attend an organizational meeting with RNC members this evening, but will leave before the president’s speech begins,” Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz said.
Another Boehner aide emphasized that the RNC reception was scheduled before the memorial event was set.
Boehner turned down a Tuesday invitation from Obama to fly to Tucson with him, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers for the Wednesday night memorial service.
A Boehner aide said the Speaker “made it clear to the White House all along that he would be in the House today” and that the president’s “last-minute invite was a courtesy” because the White House knew Boehner was going to stay in Washington, D.C.
“Today, Rep. Giffords’ colleagues on both sides of the aisle honored her and mourned those who were lost. The Speaker felt his place was here in the House, with them,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
Separately, Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that he canceled a meet-and-greet event Tuesday night for new members on the committee and the defense community because it would not be appropriate in light of the tragedy. Giffords is a member of the committee.