Congress reconvenes to show unity after attack
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers returned to the Capitol intent on ensuring Americans the government is functioning and politicians are united in the wake of terrorist attacks.
Both the House and Senate were devoting the day Wednesday to giving speeches and passing resolutions condemning the attacks in New York and Washington.
"We're determined to show the world that America will not be defeated by anyone," House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said as the House opened. Unlike most days, the chamber was filled with members listening to the opening remarks.
"It's so important that we show that even these terrible acts cannot stop America from going forward," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., as the Senate convened.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard had been scheduled to address a joint session of Congress Wednesday. That was canceled, but Howard attended the House opening, sitting in the visitors' gallery in what House Speaker Dennis Hastert termed a show of solidarity with Americans.
Almost all committee hearings also were canceled. A previously scheduled Senate Government Affairs meeting on the security of government buildings and communications systems was proceeding as scheduled.
House members were to meet on the floor of the chamber for a closed-door briefing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Senators were to be briefed separately on efforts to identify and bring to justice the people who hijacked four passenger planes Tuesday. Two crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, one into the Pentagon in Washington and the last in a field in rural Pennsylvania.
The top congressional leaders were also to meet with President Bush at the White House.
John Scofield, a spokesman for Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers were expecting a White House request Wednesday for extra money to deal with the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Scofield said it would likely be an unspecified request to spend "such funds as are necessary."
"I imagine whatever we do, we'll do it quickly," he said.
The Capitol, along with other federal buildings in Washington, was evacuated Tuesday morning following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
House and Senate leaders were taken to a secure location near the Capitol where they were in communication with the White House. Other lawmakers congregated at the Capitol Police station several blocks away where they were briefed on the evolving events.
House and Senate leaders and several hundred members gathered briefly on the steps of the Capitol Building Tuesday evening in a show of solidarity.
Democrats and Republicans, Hastert said at the gathering, "will stand shoulder to shoulder to fight this evil that's been perpetrated on this nation."