WASHINGTON - When Rep. Adam Smith of Tacoma won an election to become the top-ranked Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee last month, no one campaigned harder for him than Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“I could not have won without her support,” Smith said Monday. “She was relentless and tireless in talking me up in working her fellow members. She was more excited when I won than I was, because she was so happy for me.”
Smith has had a particularly close relationship with Giffords, who was shot in the head Saturday just outside Tucson. They’re both members of the moderate New Democrats Coalition, and they both have seats on the House Armed Services Committee. He traveled to Arizona last year to campaign on her behalf.
In 2009, Smith and Giffords took a four-day trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of their committee work. Together, Smith said, they traveled to Africa and more than 20 countries, including Iraq, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
When Giffords introduced a bill last week to cut congressional pay by 5 percent, Smith quickly signed on to the effort. The bill calls for Congress to take its first pay cut in nearly 78 years, when it reduced salaries during the midst of the Great Depression. Giffords introduced it Thursday, the same day that House members voted to cut their office budgets by 5 percent
“I’m very, very close to her, and so it’s been a very emotional couple of days,” Smith said. He said he has “never served with a more principled, dedicated member of Congress.”
Smith is not the only Washingtonian with ties to Giffords.
“I grew to know Gabby through our work on clean energy issues,” said Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee.
Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen said he knows Giffords well because they’ve served together on Armed Services and both are New Democrats. In addition, he said, they’re both members of the U.S.-China Working Group, a bipartisan group of members of Congress that studies China-U.S. issues.
“The one thing that has always struck me about Gabby is that, no matter how cynical I can get sometimes, she’ll always give me that look of, ‘Oh come on, things are really great,’” Larsen said. “And it doesn’t matter what’s going on in her life or her district or her race, it’s always better. And I think until she returns, that’s something that’s going to be missed around here.”
Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she knows Giffords through their work on the Congressional Women’s Caucus and as a fellow member on the Armed Services Committee.
“I always found her to be a smart, generous and committed leader,” said McMorris Rodgers, vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.
Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have worked with Giffords on abortion rights issues.
Two years ago they all urged President Barack Obama to rescind a Health and Human Services rule that required any health care entity receiving federal money to certify that none of its employees were required to assist with any medical services that they found objectionable.
Cantwell said Giffords is bright and talented, calling her “an incredible leader” on issues involving energy, the economy and border security.
“All Americans understand that this kind of senseless violence has no place in our society,” Murray said.