Lawmakers scramble to attend funeral

Congressional officials are in the process of finalizing transportation and security arrangements for the dozens of lawmakers expected to fly to Boston on Friday to attend Sen. Edward Kennedy’s funeral service.

Lawmakers themselves are scrambling to rearrange their weekend plans so that they may attend Kennedy’s funeral service in Boston on Saturday, where President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver one of the eulogies.

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An extreme example is Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), who heard the news of Kennedy’s death while on a congressional delegation trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. McGovern cut that trip short and embarked on a marathon 26-hour journey from Kabul to Boston, with stops in Kuwait and Germany along the way, to ensure arrival in Boston for the Kennedy funeral.

“When we heard the news, there was never a question of whether Jim would come back, but how fast he could make it,” said Michael Mershon, spokesman for McGovern.

“Ted Kennedy was always there for him. Always. And it went beyond the political and legislative stuff. When Jim and Lisa’s first child was born, the very first call that Jim got at the hospital was from Ted Kennedy. And he wants to be there to say goodbye.”

McGovern is expected to arrive in Boston on Friday afternoon to attend the public viewing in addition to the funeral on Saturday.

Other lawmakers are opting for a shorter Congress-led journey from the Washington area to the Boston region.

The Senate sergeant at arms's office is in the process of coordinating at least one bus to take senators to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where they will board a plane to fly to an undisclosed airfield in the Boston area. But the details have not all been ironed out.

“We still have today and tomorrow, so I think senators and their families and spouses are still making arrangements to get here,” said Terry Gainer, the Senate sergeant at arms.

Gainer also said that once decided upon, the time and location of the bus departure would not be released publicly for security reasons.

The Senate sergeant at arms's office is in charge of all large congressional movement to and from the Capitol — such as when lawmakers travel to political conventions — and tightly coordinates its efforts with local police. And in Kennedy’s case, with all of the living presidents expected to join Obama in Boston, the office has also been working closely with the Secret Service.

An international retinue, including Ireland’s Prime Minister Brian Cowen, is expected to join at least 44 sitting senators and 10 former senators, including Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), who rescued Kennedy from a 1964 plane crash in Massachusetts, according to The Associated Press.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will also attend the funeral in Boston, as will House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.).

Other members, like Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, are planning to attend the burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, but are not making the trip to Boston for the funeral service.

Kennedy will be buried beside his brothers President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

Many lawmakers rearranged their plans so they could attend the Boston service or the burial service Saturday evening.

Shortly after Kennedy’s death on Tuesday, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) postponed a trip for Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to come to Alaska this weekend to view examples of the effects of climate change.

Though the Senate sergeant at arms's office will fly senators back from Boston to Andrews Air Force Base, the office will have a small role in getting the lawmakers to the Arlington service if they plan on attending.

“Because that’s a private event, there will be much less involvement by the sergeant at arms's office,” Gainer said of the Arlington burial service. “But we’re still working with the family as to how we’ll do that. I do believe that it will be largely driven by the family and the invitations, so we’ll have a negligible role in that.”