WASHINGTON — After a gunman opened fire at the Navy Yard today, the Senate went into recess for the day and went into lockdown mode.
At the committee level, the hearing that was expected to get the most attention this week — a Senate Judiciary review of “stand your ground” laws — was quietly postponed to an undetermined date.
“How to make sense of a tragedy like the #NavyYardShooting? We are with the victims & their families in spirit and solidarity,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) tweeted.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, scheduled the hearing “‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force” six days after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The witness list for the hearing, originally scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, included three members of the House: Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and Tea Party Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).
A second panel was to feature Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and Lucia Bath, whose 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was killed in November when a man at a gas station opened fire on his car after a dispute over loud music. The accused in the Davis case, Michael Dunn, said he shot at the Florida teen and his friends because he saw a gun in their car but no weapons were found. Dunn soon goes to trial on a first-degree murder charge.
They were set to be joined by Florida State Attorney William Meggs, who has called his state’s Stand Your Ground law a “nightmare.”
Members of Congress extended few opinions yet many prayers and polite sympathies as Monday unfolded.
“I’ve spoken with the Sergeant at Arms, and in light of the events at the Navy Yard, we will recess the Senate until tomorrow morning,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said via Twitter. “My sympathies go out to the victims of the Navy Yard shooting, and we are all thankful for the professionalism of our first responders.”
The House was not in session Monday. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) will be leading a moment of silence on the floor of the lower chamber on Tuesday evening.
“I have long had a special attachment to the Navy Yard ever since we worked with the Clinton administration to bring the Naval Sea Systems Command, the first new facility to be located in the rapidly developing area. The renovation of the historic Navy Yard, which had been moribund for decades, started reinvigoration of the Capital Riverfront neighborhood,” Norton said Monday afternoon.
“I ask that we all withhold judgment on the causes and possible remedies that may be required here. This is one of the most secure sites in the District, and the Navy has kept this facility secure without closing it to the public,” she added. “Just a few years ago, the Navy built a beautiful new event center at the Navy where organizations from the city and region regularly hold events. We cannot allow events like today’s to shut down the city or keep us from engaging in normal activities.”
The White House canceled a Latin music event tonight, but Michelle Obama went ahead with the Musica Latina Workshop for kids in the State Dining Room late Monday morning.
President Obama mentioned the shooting at the top of his choreographed event lauding administration economic achievements five years into the financial crisis.
“We are confronting yet another mass shooting — and today, it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital,” Obama said. “…I’ve made it clear to my team that I want the investigation to be seamless, so that federal and local authorities are working together. And as this investigation moves forward, we will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible.”
Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff and held calls over the day with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and FBI Director James Comey.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that he was receiving regular updates on the shooting. “This is a tragic day for the Department of Defense, the national capital area, and the nation,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this outrageous act of violence, their families, and all those affected by today’s events.”
“I am grateful for the swift response of federal and local law enforcement, and for the professionalism of DoD personnel at the Navy Yard complex,” Hagel added. “The Department of Defense will continue to offer its full assistance in the investigation of this terrible and senseless violence.”
The Department of Homeland Security, which has been without a director since Janet Napolitano left last month, was mum on the shooting.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said members “just want to make sure that all the leads are properly followed.”
“It is reminiscent to me — not to far from my city — home city of Austin, where Fort Hood occurred. It is very reminiscent of that day. And I just — I pray that it doesn’t extend anything towards a terrorism tie,” McCaul said on Fox. “…We just don’t have any answers at this point in time.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) referenced Fort Hood in their joint statement on today’s “heartbreaking attack.”
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve seen such a tragedy befall the patriotic personnel working at a U.S. Military installation. There is nothing more cowardly than targeting innocents, and we have full faith in military and law enforcement officials to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the committee leaders said. “We send our thoughts and prayers out to the victims and their families.”