Ron Barber, the former staffer to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was also wounded during the Arizona shooting Jan. 8, 2011, took the oath of office today and his place in the House of Representatives, closing another chapter in the “Tragedy in Tucson.”
“Congratulations. You are now a member of the 112th Congress,” House Speaker John Boehner said after administering the oath of office on the House floor this afternoon.
A short time later, Barber, who defeated Republican candidate Jesse Kelly in a special election last Tuesday, stood in the well of the House chamber, thanking his family as he delivered his first remarks as a member of Congress.
“Thank you, all of you, my family, for your support and love, without which I would not be here today,” Barber, D-Ariz., said. “I have the most amazing family. I think everyone would say that, but I am very blessed to have them in my life, especially over the past year and a half. And to my high school sweet heart and wife, Nancy, I love you dearly and look forward to celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary tomorrow.”
Barber then acknowledged his predecessor, who resigned from office Jan. 25, a little more than a year after the shooting. The newly minted congressman was shot in the cheek and leg during the rampage at a constituent event he staffed with Giffords.
“Mr. Speaker, I stand here on the floor of the House in the very spot where five months ago my friend and my predecessor Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords bravely delivered her resignation from Congress. I want to thank the congresswoman for her vision and leadership and the inspiration she continues to give to our country,” he said before directing his comments directly to Giffords. “Gabby, Southern Arizona misses you dearly and we cannot wait to have you home.”
Once he took the oath, the tributes from other lawmakers were bipartisan, with one Democrat and one Republican member of the Arizona delegation speaking on behalf of their respective parties.
“The world sometimes leads us down strange and troubling paths and the fact that we are gathered today swearing in a new member of Congress into the most deliberative body in the world is a tribute to our former colleague, Gabby Giffords,” Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., said as lawmakers applauded throughout the chamber. “A tribute to the resilience of the people of Arizona, a tribute to our strong and fruitful democracy that has continually endured high, hard and challenging times, and a tribute to our new colleague, Ron Barber.”
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said, “Welcome Ron Barber, we are glad to have you here. Nobody would have wished for the circumstances that made this seat vacant. We all miss our colleagues Gabby Giffords, but it was her wish that you fill this seat for the remainder of her term, and she got her wish, as was the wish of so many Arizonans.”
Six people were killed in the shooting, including federal judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christine-Taylor Green, while 13 others were wounded. Suspect Jared Lee Loughner is in a federal prison hospital in Missouri until a hearing June 25 to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.