by Erin Kelly– Dec. 1, 2011 11:12 PM
WASHINGTON — There is now a room at the U.S. Capitol that honors the memory, ideals and character of Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed during the January shooting rampage near Tucson while working as an aide for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The spacious room on the House side of the Congressional Visitor Center, part of the Capitol complex, was officially named the “Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room” in a 419-0 vote by House members Thursday.
The unanimous vote marked a rare display of bipartisan unity and came after months of squabbling between Republicans and Democrats over how to best honor Zimmerman.
The House vote, which does not require Senate approval, came a day after members of Congress took to the floor to praise Zimmerman, who is the only congressional aide ever killed on duty. The decision to name the room in honor of Zimmerman also pleased family members.
Ross Zimmerman, Gabe’s father, said the family preferred the meeting-room tribute over some other possible memorials that had been discussed by House leaders, including a plaque to hang in one of the House office buildings.
“We liked the idea of a regular meeting room that (would be) used for the nuts and bolts and daily activities of Congress because that is something that his co-workers would be using every day, and they would see his name, and the name would be used in conversation: ‘We’re going to go meet in the Gabe Z. meeting room,'” Ross said.
“We deeply appreciate this show of support by the House of Representatives,” said Ben Zimmerman, Gabe’s younger brother. “This is a wonderful way to memorialize my brother, Gabe.”
Gabe Zimmerman of Tucson served as community-outreach director for Giffords.
The 30-year-old former social worker was one of six people who died while attending a “Congress on Your Corner” event in a grocery-store parking lot. Thirteen others, including Giffords, were wounded.
The resolution was sponsored by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and David Schweikert, R-Ariz.
After stalling for several months, the legislation to designate the room in Zimmerman’s honor was expedited this week with the support of leaders of both parties. More than 400 of the 434 current members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution, which was introduced in July.
A formal dedication ceremony will take place early next year. A large plaque bearing Zimmerman’s name and likeness will be unveiled then.
“As we honor Gabe, we honor those staff people that work for us, that sometimes make us look better than we are, who sometimes have to deal with the controversies we create and, in doing so, extend service and support to the people we represent,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who lives in Tucson, said during Wednesday’s hearing.
Zimmerman, who worked in Giffords’ Tucson office, organized the constituent event at which he was slain. The event was designed to allow residents to meet Giffords and let her know what was on their minds.
Pia Carusone, Giffords’ chief of staff, said Zimmerman was a beloved member of Giffords’ team.
“Gabe was a dedicated public servant and a friend to all,” she said. “His commitment to Arizona and to the democratic process inspires us to help each other as fellow human beings and as citizens of a caring nation.”
Every member of Arizona’s U.S. House delegation — except Giffords, who is still recovering from her wounds in Texas — spoke in favor of the legislation on the House floor. They were joined by congressional leaders of both parties, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“It is entirely fitting that we rename in his memory a room where, every day, members and our staff come together to further the representation of the American people,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., minority whip. “Every day when we enter that room, we will remember Gabe Zimmerman.”
Schweikert said he knows that naming a room in honor of Zimmerman may not seem like much.
“Though naming something as simple as this room will never be enough for such a sacrifice, it is the right thing to do for Gabe — for all he did for Arizona and what he meant to the congressional family,” the congressman said.
Wasserman Schultz, who is one of Giffords’ best friends in Congress, cried as she spoke of Zimmerman and urged her colleagues to remember their vows to be more civil to one another in the wake of the shooting.
“I believe, as Gabby Giffords does, that our country has to be strong enough to come together to solve the challenges before us,” she said.
“And I’m proud that this resolution has the support of so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
Republic reporter Jaimee Rose contributed to this article.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/12/01/20111201house-names-room-after-Giffords-aide-gabe-zimmerman.html#ixzz1fhvH9YUz