WASHINGTON -- After months of confusing delays, the House is finally moving forward with a resolution to name a room in the Capitol complex after Gabe Zimmerman, the aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who was killed in the January Tucson shootings that nearly took the congresswoman's life as well.
The House will take up the resolution on Wednesday, Nov. 30, according to the House floor schedule. Sponsored by Giffords' friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the measure calls for designating room HVC 215 of the Capitol Visitor Center as the "Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room."
It's taken months for the measure to advance, which is curious given that it contains all the right ingredients for easy passage: overwhelming support, no costs, and a chance to honor the victim of a tragedy that hits close to home for everyone on Capitol Hill.
Aides to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) demurred when asked about the delays last month. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said at the time that GOP leaders had other ideas for honoring Zimmerman, though he would give no details about what they had in mind.
In the meantime, Wasserman Schultz has been collecting co-sponsors since filing the resolution in July -- she's up to 367 now -- and Giffords' office has pressed for action on it, underscoring that Zimmerman was the first congressional aide killed in the line of duty. Zimmerman, who was 30 when he was killed, was Giffords' community outreach director.
The matter even escalated to the point of Zimmerman's family getting personally involved. Last month, Giffords' husband Mark Kelly hand-delivered a letter from Zimmerman's parents, brother and fiancé to Boehner and Cantor during a private meeting on Capitol Hill. In the letter, they urged GOP leaders to bring the resolution to a floor vote, not just to honor Zimmerman, but to pay tribute to congressional staffers everywhere for their dedication to their constituents and communities.
Whether it was the letter or pressure from lawmakers backing the resolution, Boehner is now, for the first time, publicly throwing his support behind the proposal.
"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," Boehner said Wednesday in a statement. "I am pleased that we have been able to work with Mr. Zimmerman's family, Rep. Giffords, and her staff to make this possible."
Giffords' chief of staff Pia Carusone praised GOP leaders' decision to finally move forward with the resolution.
"We're deeply appreciative that Members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- will come together to honor Gabe on the floor of the House and dedicate a corner of the Capitol to his memory," Carusone said in a statement. "He was a dedicated member of Congresswoman Giffords' staff before he was shot and killed on January 8 in Tucson. He will be remembered as a friend to all, a committed public servant and the first congressional staffer ever killed in the line of duty."
A request for comment from Wasserman Schultz's office was not immediately returned.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a comment from Giffords' office.
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