For House Speaker John Boehner, the tragic news came fast.
Shortly after 1 p.m. est on Saturday, while he was relaxing at home in West Chester, Ohio, Boehner was notified by his chief of staff, Barry Jackson, about the shooting involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D., Ariz.) in Tucson.
Boehner quickly alerted his staff then reached out to the House Sergeant at Arms, Democratic leadership, and other Republican leaders. While the story continued to unfold on television, he spoke directly with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, coordinating the House’s response efforts. Boehner also spoke with FBI director Robert Mueller later in the day.
At 3:04 p.m. est, Boehner released a statement condemning the attacks. The key quote: “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.”
Later in the afternoon, before President Obama addressed the nation, the speaker spoke to the president. They conversed about the federal response to the matter, agreeing that all possible resources would be utilized. Boehner thanked the president for his work.
As the sun set over western Ohio on Saturday, Boehner continued to work the phones, leaving a phone message for Capt. Mark Kelly, Giffords’s husband, among others.
Early Sunday, Boehner directed that the flags on the House side of the Capitol be flown at half-staff in honor of Gabe Zimmerman, a Giffords staffer who died in the rampage. At 8:30 a.m., he made an on-camera address from his district.
“Public service is a high honor, but these tragic events remind us that all of us in our roles in service to our fellow citizens comes with a risk,” Boehner said. “This inhuman act should not and will not deter us from our calling to represent our constituents and to fulfill our oaths of office. No act, no matter how heinous, must be allowed to stop us from our duty.”
At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Boehner led a conference call for all House members and representatives of the House Sergeant at Arms. As he addressed the incident, Boehner emphasized that “what is critical is that we stand together at this dark time as one body. We need to rally around our wounded colleague, the families of the fallen, and the people of Arizona’s 8th District. And, frankly, we need to rally around each other.” Boehner then spent the rest of the day huddling with staff and continuing to coordinate the House’s response.
This morning, as the Hill went back to work, Boehner was in Columbus, Ohio at the statehouse, where he observed the 11 a.m. moment of silence ordered by the president. His staff participated in a bipartisan gathering on the East Front of the Capitol.
As his spokesman, Michael Steel, tells us, “Speaker Boehner’s goal in the wake of this terrible tragedy is to act in a responsible way on behalf of the American people. This is not a time for politics.” Indeed.