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Briefings: Congresswoman’s Death Ripples out to the 413’s Reps…

Jackie Walorski

RIP Rep Walorski. (via Wikipedia)

The death of a GOP Representative reverberated across the country, prompting a wave of remembrances and mourning from congressional colleagues, including those that represent Western Massachusetts. Elkhart, Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski died in an automobile accident Wednesday that also killed two of her aides. The driver of the other car in the head-on collision also perished according to media reports.

A conservative Republican from north-central Indiana who first took office in 2013, Walorski worked with both of the 413’s representatives. She was a member of House Ways & Means Committee that Democratic Springfield Congressman Richard Neal chairs. She also worked on issues relating to hunger alongside Rep James McGovern, who represents parts of Franklin and Hampshire counties.

“As a co-chair of the Hunger Caucus, a co-lead of the White House Hunger Conference, and a reliable co-sponsor whenever important nutrition or hunger legislation came up, Jackie was always a steadfast partner and outspoken advocate in efforts to combat food insecurity,” McGovern wrote on Twitter.

“This is a loss not just for Indiana but for the Congress, the anti-hunger movement and the country,” he continued.

On a poisonously riven Capitol Hill, Walorski’s passing was a rare moment of sincere unity, if amid mourning. McGovern, Neal, President Joe Biden and other leaders all conveyed a depth respect for their slain colleague and her aides.

“We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work on the House Ways and Means Committee on which she served,” Biden said in a statement.

In his statement, Neal, noting Walorski was ranking member on the Worker & Family Support Subcommittee, praised her dedication to service.

“I am overwhelmed with sadness over the horrific loss of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and two members of her staff,” Neal said in a statement. “Jackie brought a passion and love to her public service that I will always remember. She put nervous witnesses at ease with her kindness, and never met a stranger.”

Neal added that her smile, booming laugh and advocacy for children and families would be missed on Ways & Means.

In remarking on her sense of service, McGovern observes Walorski had been a missionary in Romania. She and her husband founded an agency to deliver food and medical supplies to the impoverished.

Though McGovern and Neal split from Walorski on many votes, their statements indicated they found common ground. McGovern said she frequently worked across the aisle on food and agricultural issues like food waste and school meals.

Both McGovern and Neal mourned their late colleagues’ aides, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson, as well.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said flags at the Capitol would fly at half-staff in her and her staffers’ honor. Biden ordered the same for the White House flag.

The 117th Congress has experienced an unusual number of deaths. Although Walorski is the first to pass away from other than natural causes, four of her colleagues have died since this Congress began on January 3, 2021. Three were Republicans and one was a Democrat. Another would-be colleagues died of COVID-19 before he could take office after winning election in 2020.

The 110th Congress, which took office in 2007, was the last one to meet or exceed this toll. Seven reps and one senator passed before the following Congress began.

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