WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- House Speaker John Boehner decried the rampage in Tucson, Ariz., in which six people died and 14 people were injured, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
"These are difficult hours for our country," Boehner said, tears falling and voice cracking. "Our hearts are broken ... but our spirit is not."
House members gathered to discuss a resolution to honor the victims of the shooting during a Giffords meet-and-greet event outside a Tucson grocery store, The New York Times reported.
"We feel a litany of unwanted emotions that no resolution could possibly capture," Boehner said. "We know that we gather here without distinction of party, the needs of this institution have always risen above partisanship."
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the Democratic leader, praised Giffords, her aide, Gabe Zimmerman, who die, and others who were killed or injured in the Saturday shootings for which Jared Lee Loughner faces federal charges.
Boehner referenced the shooting in a letter to President Obama, formally inviting him to address Congress Jan. 25 to deliver the State of the Union, The Hill reported.
"Recent events have reminded us of the imperfect nature of our representative democracy, but also how much we cherish the ideal that our government exists to serve the people," Boehner wrote. "Even in the wake of tragedy, we must never waiver from our obligation to carry out their will and provide solutions to keep moving our nation forward."
The bipartisan tribute is a 180-degree turn from what had been anticipated as a sharp debate on what Republican leaders planned to consider Wednesday: a bill that would repeal the healthcare law.
The House canceled all activity not related to the Arizona shootings this week, including consideration of the repeal.
A GOP leadership aide said told The Hill the "House is likely to resume its normal business next week, with a schedule to be determined in the coming days."
Meanwhile, KOLD-TV, Tucson, reported there are no specific rules to declare Giffords' seat vacant if she is incapacitated for a period of time and unable to perform her duties.
The television station said it contacted the Congressional Research Service, which said specific protocols, procedures or authorities aren't in the Constitution, federal law or congressional rules that recognize "incapacity" of a sitting member to declare a "vacancy."