House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, shot Wednesday during a congressional baseball practice, was undergoing his third surgery Thursday morning as his colleagues gathered to discuss the horrific shooting and share cautious optimism about Scalise’s recovery.
The Louisiana Republican remained in critical condition early Thursday as doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center began a third operation. The bullet had fractured bones and torn through internal organs, the hospital said late Wednesday. And Scalise, who suffered severe blood loss, had been receiving multiple units of blood transfusion.
President Donald Trump visited Scalise late Wednesday and then tweeted that “Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape — but he is a real fighter.”
According to sources familiar with Scalise’s condition, the third surgery was routine for gunshot victims. Doctors went in to check on the work that they performed the night before.
On the Hill, lawmakers grappled with the severity of Scalise’s condition, with some Republicans even speculating that Scalise could be out commission for some time. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his leadership team called an emergency conference Thursday morning to give lawmakers an update. Scalise’s chief deputy whip Patrick McHenry, R-N.H., who’s visited him in the hospital, gave a moving speech about faith in dark times — and about Scalise’s strength as an individual.
Sources in the room said people tried to stay optimistic, even as some members who witnessed the horrific shooting stood and told their stories. Lawmakers signed jumbo cards for Scalise and the other victims.
Meanwhile, thoughts and prayers poured into the Hill in droves as member geared up to play the congressional baseball game Thursday evening — an annual, friendly bipartisan affair that will become a tribute to their colleague.
“All over the country we have people praying for Steve, for Steve’s wife and kids, for the others injured and for the doctors and nurses caring for our friends,” said Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kans., the Republican team’s relief pitcher. “Steve is a great friend and father and a mentor to many of us.”
Beyond that and a brief discussion of the hospital statement released Wednesday night, leadership did not give additional details on his condition or prognosis. They also asked members not to comment on Scalise’s condition, hoping to tamp down any rumor mills that might start churning as Scalise remains in the hospital.
Multiple people were wounded in Wednesday morning’s shooting, including a congressional staffer, a lobbyists and two Capitol Hill Police officers. The gunman, identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Illinois, died after being shot at the scene.
On the Senate floor earlier Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged prayer for Scalise and others injured in the shooting — adding that it’s been an “immensely difficult 24 hours for all the victims.”
“The events of yesterday were devastating, and we know it will take time to heal. But for now, the members of the congressional baseball team have made the decision to go forward with tonight’s game, which will be played for charity,” McConnell said. “I know we’ll be thinking about each of them as they take the field tonight.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., added shortly after McConnell’s remarks that the four top congressional leaders — McConnell, Schumer, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., — will attend the baseball game together as a show of unity.
“We would all be wise to reflect on the importance of civility in our nation’s politics this morning,” Schumer said. “We disagree vehemently at times here in Congress, and folks out in the country do, too. But the level of nastiness, vitriol and hate that has seeped into our politics must be excised.”