A Return To Normalcy At Capitol

Republican leaders would like to push legislation through Congress this year for a new Capitol visitors center, after two fallen police officers who died protecting the Capitol received rare honors in the building's Rotunda.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said that he, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and other top Republicans would meet Wednesday to try to agree on legislation that would authorize work on the proposed center, which could cost as much as $125 million. Envisioned by most participants as an underground structure, the center would provide security checkpoints outside the Capitol while offering tourists shelter and information.

The idea has been around for years. But it was given renewed impetus by the killings last Friday of officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John Gibson by an intruder.

Officer John Gibson (AP)Officer Jacob Chestnut (AP)










"We want to try to take steps this year that would...get this started," Lott told reporters.

Lawmakers are trying to get back to the business of Congress on Wednesday, just five days after Russell E. Weston Jr., 41, stormed through a security gate gunning down Gibson and Chestnut and wounding tourist Angela Dickerson, 24, in the face and arm. Click here for a chronology of events.

President Clinton and congressional leaders paid tribute Tuesday at the caskets of Chestnut and Gibson in a rare Rotunda ceremony, typically reserved for former presidents and military heroes. The two officers are only the 26th and 27th Americans to be so honored in a tradition that began after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Clinton praised the men's "quiet courage and uncommon bravery" and added, "Until crisis reveals their courage, we do not see how truly special they are."

All day Tuesday people came to the Rotunda, 2,000 an hour by police count.

At noon, hundreds of members of the House and Senate had their turn to pay respects, noiselessly standing eight deep around the plush red theater ropes surrounding the caskets. The Rotunda was temporarily closed to anyone but House and Senate members.

Spontaneously, a line of lawmakers formed to solemnly exchange sympathies with Gingrich, Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, and Republican Whip Tom DeLay. It was in the officeof DeLay that the final bursts of Friday's shootout with an intruder occurred, and many colleagues had long, sad hugs for the Texan, his wife, Christine, and daughter Dani Ferro.

Chestnut and Gibson will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Chestnut is a 20-year Air Force veteran, and the Army approved Gibson's interment there, after it was requested by Gingrich and Gephardt.

Weston, the alleged assailant in Friday's rampage, continues to recover from wounds to his chest and elsewhere and faces further surgery at D.C. General Hospital. A diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, he was charged preliminarily with killing a federal officer, which carries a possible death sentence. Additional charges were pending. Click here to find out more about the alleged gunman.

CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports that Weston will most likely be indicted within 30 days, if his case progresses as other federal criminal cases have. At that time, his case would be assigned to a judge, and he'd be arraigned. Weston would also enter a formal plea, although an insanity defense need not be introduced until much later in his case.

Attkisson reports that Weston had met with his public defender, A.J. Kramer, for about 45 minutes on Monday. Kramer said that Weston was "conscious" with "no tubes down his throat."

Notes of condolence and contributions to a memorial fund for John Gibson and Jacob J. Chestnut can be sent to: U.S. Capitol Police Memorial Fund, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. 20515.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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