Monday, January 10, 2011

How to honor Gabrielle Giffords

The attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday, which left 6 people dead—including a federal judge—and Giffords in critical condition, seems to have shaken up the rest of the House of Representatives. As Ezra Klein, among others, reports
The awful events of the weekend have reshaped the legislative agenda. Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that the House will be postponing the week's planned votes -- including the repeal of health-care reform.
Klein adds, possibly with a touch of wishful thinking:
And when the body does return to normal business, expect a more restrained tone to the proceedings. It's very difficult to say how that will change what Congress does and does not get done, of course. But compared to Friday, when the passions of the election were still riding high and the two parties were gearing up for the epic and angry clash they'd promised voters, it's going to be a very different mood when the lawmakers reconvene.
We'll see how long that lasts.

Cooling down the political atmosphere, at least for a moment, strikes me as a good idea under the circumstances. And the vote on repealing health care reform was a symbolic gesture intended precisely to inflame partisan passions and provide an occasion for overheated Republican demagoguery, so putting it off is probably the decent thing to do.

=> But suspending all legislative votes for a week seems like an oddly inappropriate way to show respect for someone like Gabrielle Giffords, who by all accounts has been a very active, serious, and public-spirited member of Congress. An e-mail message I just got from Michael Cole (of UC San Diego) suggests a more positive and constructive alternative.
The idea is this.
Identify a piece of legislation that Giffords was pushing that is NOT highly partisan. Get Congress to pass it. That would honor her. The rest is horseshit as usual.
That makes sense to me. Any ideas out there?

—Jeff Weintraub

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