Boehner takes the lead on plans for a tribute to slain aide to Rep. Giffords

Speaker John Boehner’s office has taken over efforts to honor a slain staffer of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s (D-Ariz.).

Sources declined to comment on details of Boehner’s (R-Ohio) plans to honor Gabriel Zimmerman, but Boehner’s spokesman acknowledged the ongoing effort.

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“The Speaker has been working for months on a prominent and permanent memorial to Mr. Zimmerman,” Michael Steel wrote in an email. “The Speaker’s office is working closely with Rep. Giffords’s staff and members of Gabe Zimmerman’s family regarding his memorial.”

According to Steel, Boehner also recently met with Giffords’s husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, to discuss the matter.

Steel added that they are “very close to finalizing” memorial plans but declined to comment on when an announcement will be made.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) sponsored a resolution this summer to name HVC 215 of the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) as the Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room. The community outreach director for Giffords was one of six people killed in the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

In an October interview with The Hill, Wasserman Schultz, a close friend of Giffords’s, expressed frustration that the tribute was languishing in committee.

“It’s incredibly important to Gabby, to his family, to the members to honor a staff member and make sure that our staff knows how important their service to the country is,” Wasserman Schultz said at the time.

Garnering widespread bipartisan support with 367 co-sponsors, the measure was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on July 21 and is stalled there.

According to a Transportation Committee staffer, the resolution has been held up because of Boehner’s plans.

“We don’t have any plans right now to move that particular bill,” the staffer told The Hill. “The plans to memorialize Mr. Zimmerman are being addressed by the Speaker … This is something [Boehner’s] been working on.”

In a nod to frustration within Congress that the proposed legislation honoring Zimmerman had stalled, Steel wrote that “any member of Congress interested in this issue has had ample opportunity to discuss it with the Speaker.”

The Transportation Committee staffer said the onus has been on the Speaker’s office.

“They have been planning something and continue to do so,” the staffer added. “The committee supports these efforts.”

The committee staffer did note that the Speaker retains the authority to name any room in the House side of the Capitol and the CVC, independent of a committee.

Wasserman Schultz’s office did not comment on the matter by press time. 

Zimmerman was responsible for organizing hundreds of events to allow constituents to meet with Giffords, including planning the Jan. 8 “Congress on your Corner” at which the shooting occurred. The former social worker with a master’s degree from Arizona State University was engaged to be married at the time of his death at the age of 30.

Zimmerman “was known and respected by countless individuals throughout the 8th congressional district,” the resolution added.