UPDATE - Feb. 17: House Republicans moved to restore the moment of silence Thursday morning, which C-Span captured.
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WASHINGTON -- For the past two and a half years, the U.S. House of Representatives has begun the first legislative day of each month with a moment of silence to pay tribute to troops who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is, until the GOP took control.
Now, the Republican who first proposed the monthly moment of silence, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, is threatening to bypass Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and introduce a House resolution that would mandate it, Jones told The Huffington Post.
Jones said that he has sent a letter to Boehner requesting the moment of silence and also spoke with his chief of staff, Barry Jackson, four or five weeks ago. He's going to give Boehner one more week to agree to reinstate the moment of silence before acting on his own.
"I would hope Mr. Boehner would remember that we have young men and women dying every day in Afghanistan and all we're asking is that we remember them with a moment of silence to show that the House supports them," said Jones, who voted to approve the invasion of Iraq but has since become skeptical of both wars. "I think two months is enough time. I don't mean that as a criticism, that's just a matter of priorities. And to me there's nothing more important, quite frankly, that the House can do, than to have a moment of silence to say thank you to the families who have given a loved one for this country."
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that the speaker's office has been working with Jones. "We're not aware of any reason why there would be a need for a resolution," said Steel. "The speaker agreed to continue the practice a few weeks ago, which had been conveyed to Mr. Jones, and we are having ongoing conversations with him ... There was never an issue of whether we would or would not do this." Steel said the details of when to hold the moment of silence are still being worked out.
In May 2008, Jones approached then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about holding the moment of silence. Pelosi told him that if he didn't introduce a resolution, she would give him her word that each month, a moment of silence would be observed, beginning as soon as the chamber returned from its Memorial Day break.
"If I have to, I'm going to put a resolution of the House in asking the House to continue this process. I'm very grateful to Ms. Pelosi. She kept her word," Jones said Tuesday. "She kept her word and I hope that Mr. Boehner will do the same thing."
Jones said he doesn't want to go around Boehner. "I made this statement to Mr. Jackson, I said, 'Any member could go there and ask for a moment of silence, but I think it says a lot for the leadership of the House to request it, and that's why I'm very thankful to Ms. Pelosi that she did it," he said.
Pelosi put her commitment to Jones in writing in 2008. "Thank you for your leadership in proposing that the House of Representatives observe a moment of silence on the first legislative day of each month, for those killed or wounded in the United States engagements in Iraq or Afghanistan," she wrote in a letter, a copy of which was shown to HuffPost. "Your idea is an excellent one and I plan to honor it when Congress returns."
Jones said that Boehner's staff told him they do want to allow for the moment of silence but are trying to figure out how best to work it in. Jones is growing impatient, however, insisting that it's not a difficult thing for the House to do, especially compared to the sacrifices being made in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I don't think there is anything difficult about it. To me, I've given it four or five weeks now, and I think that the Speaker of the House would want to respect our military and those who've given their lives for this country by having a moment of silence," he said. "So I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I intend to have the resolution ready to drop as soon as we come back [from the President's Day recess]."
Jones, who represents thousands of North Carolina military families, is deeply respected among his colleagues on military affairs.
"I intend, if I don't get the right word [from Boehner], to put a resolution in of the House. I would seek every member of the House to join me by signing it, but I hope Mr. Boehner will continue" the tradition, he said.
"I have not forgotten it, believe me."
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