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January 15, 2011

US House Resumes Work After Arizona Shooting

The U.S. House of Representatives resumes work this week after a one-week suspension following the near-fatal shooting of an Arizona congresswoman.  Contentious legislation in the House will test President Barack Obama’s call for greater civility in the nation’s discourse.

The new House Republican majority top priority is repealing President Obama’s signature health-care reform initiative.  Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake expects rhetoric will be toned down following the Arizona tragedy.

"I think you will see a more civil debate than you would have had otherwise," he said.  "I am not sure the substance of the debate will change that much.  I think Republicans are committed to repealing the [health-care] law in the House.  But I do think the tone will change, and that is a good thing."

Flake spoke on CBS’ Face The Nation.  Also appearing on the program was Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who opposes any wholesale abandonment of the health-care law.

"I do not plan to debate my values and the principles of my constituents any less vigorously," she said.  "But I think it [tone of debate] starts with us, and we have to lead by example.  I think all of us need to be more careful about the words that we choose to use."

Americans could see a brief erasing of partisan divides next week when President Obama delivers his State of the Union address at the Capitol.  Democratic Senator Kirsten is one of several lawmakers urging Democrats and Republicans to sit together, rather than dividing the House chamber by party.

"It is a symbol, and a symbol is a very good place to start," said Gillibrand.  "What you are going to create is an image of the Congress deciding that we are going to work as a body, not as two separate sides."

The senator is a friend of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head earlier this month.  Giffords survived, but six people died in a spray of bullets from a lone gunman.  

Senator Gillibrand visited Giffords in the hospital twice in the past week.  She says Giffords has yet to speak, but appears to be on the road to a miraculous recovery.

"She can move both sides of her body.  She can breathe.  She is showing people she can communicate by holding our hands and moving her arms and her legs and looking at us," Gillibrand said.  So, she is making great progress."

With more details emerging about the disturbed mental state of alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner, some Democrats and Republicans are urging greater attention to mental health issues in the United States.