Washington — Lawmakers who spar over everything from environmental regulations to taxes came together Monday evening during a vigil on Capitol Hill for the victims of the Newtown massacre.
Held in the ornate Senate Kennedy Caucus room and organized by the offices of Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the vigil gave lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, from other states a chance to show their sorrow over the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Every member of the Connecticut delegation spoke, describing Newtown to colleagues who know little of Connecticut or New England.
The Connecticut lawmakers also tried to convey the sense of grief they felt and — to the last one — called on Congress to take action against violence and guns.
“This is complicated, but we have the ability to work together and solve the complications,” Lieberman said.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, spoke of spending time over the weekend with her grandchildren and seeing on them the faces of the children slain in Newtown.
“I had to leave the room because I didn’t want them to see me cry,” DeLauro said.
Blumenthal, who with Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, stayed at the scene from right after the shooting Friday morning, said, “They are four days that I don’t want to relive, ever.”
Blumenthal also described well-armed, hardened, Swat team members who broke down at the scene of the crime.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, told of seeing police cruisers stationed at Connecticut schools, which he said have been “turned into fortresses.”
“It just goes to show how the world has changed,” Courtney said.
Like his Connecticut colleagues, Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, urged swift action on gun control.
“I don’t worry that we can’t do anything about it,” Himes said. “We can do it. The question is, ‘Will we do it?'”
Murphy, who will replace the retiring Lieberman, described the Fairfield County town he has represented in Congress for six years.
“Newtown … is a slice of Americana. Everybody knows everybody,” Murphy said. “There’s no precedence for this, there’s a blankness on people’s faces.”
At the end of the vigil, many lawmakers stepped up to offer the delegation members condolences.
“I’m very, very sorry,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., while hugging Lieberman.
Sessions is at odds with Connecticut’s lawmakers over the size of the recovery bill for superstorm Sandy.
And many others in the room, including Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., may push back on efforts to tighten gun laws.
But Monday evening, at least, all lawmakers were united by the tragedy.