POLITICS
10/27/2011 08:04 pm ET | Updated Dec 27, 2011

Parents Of Slain Giffords Aide Urge Boehner To Allow Tribute For Son

WASHINGTON -- The family of Gabe Zimmerman, the congressional aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who was killed in the Tucson shootings in January, sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday urging him to allow a House vote on a stalled resolution that would name a room in the Capitol Visitor Center after Gabe.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), has more than 350 cosponsors and doesn't cost taxpayers anything, save the costs of hanging a sign outside of a room. Still, it hasn't moved since it was filed in July for reasons that remain unclear to just about anyone.

In their letter to Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the Zimmerman family asks that the GOP leaders bring the resolution to a floor vote not just to honor Gabe's service, but to pay tribute to congressional staffers everywhere for their dedication to their constituents and communities. The letter highlights the work that Gabe was doing -- he was Giffords' community outreach director -- and notes that he is the first congressional aide ever killed in the line of duty.

The letter is signed by Gabe's parents, his brother Ben, and Kelly O'Brien, who was Gabe's fiance.

"We are so proud to see 85 percent of the House of Representatives and all members of the Arizona delegation are supporting a resolution to honor Gabe," Ben later told The Huffington Post in a statement. "We miss him very much and we hope to see his commitment to public service recognized in our nation's Capitol before the one year anniversary of his murder."

"We also hope that this can serve as a way to honor the hard work of congressional staff people who are dedicated to making a difference through service to their communities and to their country. We want to thank the 380 Members and counting who have co-sponsored this resolution. We also thank Gabby's husband, Mark Kelly, who spoke to Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor today expressing our support for this room naming," Ben said.

Kelly delivered the family's letter in person to Boehner and Cantor during a private meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday.

"Gabby and I were touched by how the country came together after the tragic shooting at her constituent event in Tucson," Kelly said later in a statement to The Huffington Post.

"And we're likewise touched that 85 percent of the House--Republicans and Democrats--have come together to support naming a humble but meaningful corner of the Capitol after Gabe Zimmerman, who is the only Congressional staffer slain in the line of duty and who died performing a public service. With the number of legislative days before the one-year anniversary of the tragedy dwindling, I hope and expect the resolution will be scheduled for House approval soon," Kelly said.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said GOP leaders have other ideas for honoring Gabe, though he would give no details about what they had in mind.

"The Speaker and other House officials have been working for months on a prominent and permanent memorial to Mr. Zimmerman," Steel said in a statement. "In fact, he [Boehner] met this morning with Rep. Gifford's husband, Captain Mark Kelly. While we're finalizing the last few details and are not ready to announce plans publicly at this point, any Member of Congress interested in this issue has had ample opportunity to discuss it with the Speaker."

Despite broad bipartisan support, the resolution has had a bumpy path over the past few months.

In addition to inexplicably stalling for months in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where the bulk of members on the committee are cosponsors of the resolution, supporters of the measure have also been unsuccessful in their attempts to move it through Congress through other means.

Back in August, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), one of the bill's cosponsors, told The Huffington Post that he was caught off guard when the House Rules Committee rejected an otherwise agreed-to request to attach the resolution to a related spending bill ready for a vote and on its way to the House floor. The 2012 Legislative Branch spending bill was before the committee, and backers of the resolution thought they had found a window for expediting the measure to the floor.

"I actually spoke to a number of members of the Rules Committee," Schweikert said of the hearing that took place in late July. "A number of those folks looked me in the eye and said, 'I think it should be fine.' They said it beforehand."

The committee ultimately rejected the move, however, and Schweikert said he never got a clear reason from Republican leaders as to why.

"One of my staffers thinks it was technical, not personal," he said at the time. "I haven't heard anything. But then again, I'm not one of the favored children."