Saturday, January 8, 2011

Utah's Congressional Delegation Decries The Shooting Of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; Jim Matheson Originally Vetted Giffords As A "Blue-Dogger"

While the nation reacts in shock and horror at the shooting of Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who represented the 8th Congressional District, Giffords herself has survived and is in critical condition after brain surgery. She's following commands and the prognosis for a complete recovery is promising. A total of six people, including U.S. District Judge John M. Roll and a nine-year-old girl, were killed and 18 injured. A suspect, Jared Loughner, has been caught, and by all accounts, appears to be a nihilistic weirdo who dabbles in a bit of everything. There's now word that the Pima County Sheriff doesn't think Loughner acted alone; they're seeking a second person of interest. Here's a recent news video from Azfamily.com



Utah's five-member Congressional delegation has reacted. Most noteworthy is the reaction of Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson, who's also part of the moderate-to-conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Matheson actually interviewed Giffords to join the coalition when she first ran for Congress in 2006, and praised her dedication to the Science Committee and her passion for researching solar-energy issues. Matheson said, "She is everything you want in a public servant -- bright, energetic, and committed to working across the aisle to make progress on the important issues of the day. It is an American tragedy when the open discussion of ideas between a Member of Congress and her constituents is cut off by such an unthinkable act." Read Matheson's complete statement HERE.

Third District Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz works in an office next door to Giffords’ office, and said he contacted U.S. Capitol police Saturday after receiving what he considered an inappropriate Twitter message about the Giffords attack. Chaffetz called upon people to calm down and chill their rhetoric. "This type of senseless act of violence should never happen. My thoughts and prayers are with all of today’s victims and their families. May God bless her and all those affected by this tragedy.”

First District Republican Congressman Rob Bishop worked closely with Giffords to ensure the solid-rocket booster, which is manufactured in Utah, remains part of NASA’s next-generation space shuttle. He said "“This is sad; this is unfortunate; this is reprehensible; hopefully it will never be replicated again”.

Senator Orrin Hatch responded at greater length, saying "Today I join every Utahn and American in condemning this senseless and brutal act of violence in Tuscon. This is a national tragedy and we all mourn those who lost their lives. Acts and threats of violence have no place in our political discourse or in a civil society." Read Hatch's complete statement HERE.

And finally, new Senator Mike Lee noted that “There is simply no excuse for such brutality, and it’s especially unfortunate that she was attacked while serving those she represents.” That's the one aspect that really sticks in the craw of many; she was fired on while on duty. Rep. Giffords was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event, which allows constituents a rare opportunity to present their concerns directly to her instead of going through a staffer.

Jim Matheson said the shooting could lead to discussion about security policies for elected officials. He added that he has never in the past worried about his own security on the campaign trail or at public events designed to gain constituent feedback, but this incident may spawn some discussions.

Rep. Giffords was first elected to the U.S. House in 2006. According to Congress.org, she allied herself with the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, but supported the major economic initiatives of the Obama administration. She generally hewed to the center of her party, with a focus on immigration issues, alternative energy policy and relations with Latin America. She opposed Arizona SB1070, but supported an immigration overhaul similar to the Utah Compact that would stiffen border security, impose tougher penalties against employers who hire illegal immigrants and create a guest worker program allowing foreign citizens to work seasonally in the United States. Rep. Giffords has also been identified by the Pew Forum on Religious Life as one of 39 Jews in Congress, all of whom are Democrats except for Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), but this doesn't appear to be a factor in the shooting.

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