WASHINGTON – Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, said the partisanship in Washington is not really as bad as it looks from the outside, but concedes that in the current political climate, “You don’t expect a lot of hand-holding.”
Yet there they were Tuesday, several hundred members of Congress, if not exactly hand-holding, at least joining together on the East Front of the Capitol to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Under a blue Washington sky and an American flag flying at half-staff, senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle gathered on the Capitol steps and recalled the sacrifice and cooperation that followed the terrorist attacks 11 years ago.
On that day, members gathered on the same steps spontaneously began singing “God Bless America.” Tuesday they gathered again, waving little American flags, and they sang again.
A military brass band played patriotic songs. The commemoration itself lasted 20 minutes, with several hundred lawmakers facing a similar-sized, respectful crowd of reporters, aides and tourists.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said there are some things that time will not diminish.
“It will never dim the American people’s spirit of unity in the wake of the attacks,” Pelosi said.
House Speaker John Boehner closed the event by saying everyone should celebrate the greater good that comes from standing shoulder to shoulder.
“If we falter, it will be because we forgot what we learned in hardship,” Boehner said.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., was one of those present at Tuesday’s ceremony.
“I would hope that we can all remember what today was all about and carry out that unity in the remaining days of the Congress,” Kyl said.
Despite legislative gridlock that has some political analysts calling this Congress one of the worst ever, some members of Arizona’s delegation said the body, like the nation, can pull together when it has to.
“Even though Americans are divided best approach to fix our nation’s domestic issues, we almost always act as one in defending our nation and our allies,” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, said in an email.
Though Rep. Jeff Flake was not present at the ceremony due to a flight delay, he said elected officials in Washington are less divided than people think.
“I’m pleased to report that there’s more unity and bipartisanship than you see on C-SPAN and the cable news shows,” Flake said.
He did concede there is still “a lot of petty partisanship,” but Flake said that’s typical in an election year, especially one that “presents a stark contrast in philosophies between the parties.”
Gosar said some things transcend politics.
“Underneath the campaign rhetoric, beyond the red and the blue states, there is simply red, white and blue, and as Americans we always stand together when it matters most.”