Boehner abandons memorial plans for slain Gabrielle Giffords staffer

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

Instead, the Speaker is supporting legislation sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to name a room in the Capitol Visitor Center after Gabriel Zimmerman.

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Earlier this month, Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office told The Hill that it was “very close to finalizing” memorial plans for Zimmerman, a congressional staffer who died in the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting that nearly cost Giffords her life.

But just weeks later, those plans were scrapped in favor of ushering to the House floor Wasserman Schultz's legislation.

"It is fitting and appropriate to have a permanent memorial in the Capitol for the first House staffer to die in the line of duty,” wrote Boehner in an email. “I am pleased that we have been able to work with Mr. Zimmerman's family, Rep. Giffords, and her staff to make this possible."

It's a notable change from earlier this month when Boehner's office said it had taken over the efforts to honor Zimmerman.

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

That announcement came after complaints that Wasserman Schultz's legislation, which would name HVC 215 the Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room, was stuck in committee despite its bipartisan support, including 367 co-sponsors.

Referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on July 21, the resolution languished there with little movement. According to a committee staffer, the resolution was 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 earlier this month. “The plans to memorialize Mr. Zimmerman are being addressed by the Speaker. … This is something [Boehner’s] been working on.”

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On Wednesday, Boehner’s office acknowledged that separate memorial plans would be scrapped in favor of the HVC room naming.

The Speaker’s office declined to comment on the fast-tracking of Wasserman Schultz's legislation out of committee and onto the House calendar. It is now slated for a House vote on Nov. 30.


“The resolution was added to the schedule by direction of the Speaker, who has been working closely with Rep. Giffords and the family of Gabe Zimmerman,” a Transportation Committee staffer said Wednesday.

Wasserman Schultz and Giffords’s offices did not immediately return requests for comment. But both previously expressed their desire to speed the honoring of Zimmerman along.

“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 in October.

Pia Carusone, Giffords’s chief of staff, echoed the sentiment.

“By the time we are recognizing the one-year anniversary of the shooting, it’s the hope and expectation of Gabe’s family and of the bipartisan family of members of Congress and staffers that have been affected by his murder, that we have properly memorialized the only staffer to be slain in the line of duty,” she told The Hill in October.

“The reason for this whole thing is that we felt that naming the room in the CVC will forever serve as a reminder to the staff and members that use it regularly of our broad commitment to public service and civil discourse that Gabe so heroically represented,” she added.

-- This story was updated at 2:36 p.m.