Boehner: 'Sacred dialogue of democracy' won't be silenced by Tucson attack
Updated: 3:10 p.m.
Addressing a bipartisan prayer service in tribute to the victims of Saturday's shooting rampage in Tucson, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) vowed that the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and others at a constituent event would not deter lawmakers from carrying out their civic duties.
"No assailant's bullet -- no twisted act of violence or cruelty -- can silence the sacred dialogue of democracy," Boehner said, according to his prepared remarks.
At the prayer service, which was attended by scores of lawmakers and held in an auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center, Boehner also commended his fellow House members for responding with civility in the wake of tragedy.
"As our nation struggles to comprehend this act of savagery -- this fearful assault on all of our sacred responsibilities -- it speaks well of our institution that its members have reacted not with a torrent of accusations hurled at each other, but courageously, with a collective embrace -- the embrace of brothers, sisters, and countrymen. It is in that spirit that we assemble here today," he said.
The prayer service was closed to members of the press, but according to attendees, Boehner's opening remarks were followed by an invocation by House Chaplain Daniel Coughlin. Then House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) addressed the gathering, reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12a, 18-22, and 24b-27.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had originally been scheduled to speak, but she left the Capitol early Wednesday afternoon to fly to Tucson with President Obama ahead of an evening memorial service for the victims of the tragedy.
Also addressing the prayer service was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who was to read from Psalms 27:7-14.
Cantor Leon Sher of Livingston, New Jersey, gave the musical selection. Reps. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) also gave their reflections; Paulsen is a close friend of Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. The benediction at Wednesday's prayer service was delivered by Rabbi David Saperstein.
Several former lawmakers attended the event. Former Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who lost his re-election bid in November, said that Paulsen's remarks were a defining moment of the service.
"He talked about a long, close friendship dating back to before either of them came to Congress," Pomeroy said. "I thought that was reflective of absolutely the bipartisan nature of Gabby; she didn't care, Republican or Democrat. She was just a friendly person and one that's relatively easy to get to know on a personal level. She just really represented the best of the institution, the very kind of person you need if you're going to change the tone here."
Before and after the service, lawmakers signed books of condolence and well-wishes for Giffords, her staffers and the other victims of the shooting. The House reconvened Wednesday afternoon as more lawmakers took to the floor to deliver statements on the tragedy.
| January 12, 2011; 1:36 PM ET
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