Shot congressman facing ‘much more difficult’ recovery than first thought

WASHINGTON (AP) — In critical condition and undergoing repeated surgery, Republican House Whip Steve Scalise faces a “much more difficult” struggle to recover from his gunshot wound than first thought, President Donald Trump said Thursday.

Colleagues who visited Scalise at a Washington hospital sounded generally upbeat, but spoke more in terms of hopes than the confident predictions of the immediate aftermath a day earlier.

Democrat Cedric Richmond, a fellow Louisiana congressman, said as many others did that Scalise is a fighter. “I’m prayerful he will pull through, and I hope he does,” he said.

Scalise was fielding ground balls at second base Wednesday when he was shot at a practice for an annual Republicans-Democrats baseball game. Richmond, who plays for the Democratic team, said he had visited the hospital twice and planned to go again before Thursday night’s game at Nationals Park.

Members of the FBI inspect the crime scene after a shooting during a practice of the Republican congressional baseball at Eugene Simpson Statium Park, June 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Four miles north of the Capitol, Scalise, 51, lay at Medstar Washington Hospital Center with a rifle wound in his left hip that shattered bones, tore organs and caused severe bleeding. The House’s third highest ranking GOP lawmaker completed his third surgery late Thursday, and a person close to the lawmaker said he remained in critical condition.

“He’s in some trouble,” said Trump, who had visited late Wednesday. “He’s going to be OK. We hope.”

Scalise was among five people wounded when a shooter sprayed rifle fire at congressional Republicans practicing on a diamond in Alexandria.

Dr. Ira Rabin (L) escorts US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, June 14, 2017. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Also hurt but released from hospitals were two Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, and House GOP aide Zack Barth. Lobbyist Matt Mika was shot multiple times and critically injured and remained hospitalized.

The US House of Representatives lurched back to business in a somber mood as law enforcement tracked the path the shooter traveled to his ballfield carnage.

Investigators studying Wednesday’s attack at a suburban Virginia park said shooter James Hodgkinson had obtained his rifle and handgun from licensed firearms dealers. Capitol Police said they had “no evidence to suggest that the purchases were not lawful.”

Hodgkinson, a Belleville, Illinois, home inspector who had been living out of his van near the park, had a social media page filled with criticism of Republicans and the Trump administration. He died after officers in Scalise’s security detail fired back at him.

The FBI said it was investigating the shooter’s “activities and social media impressions” in the months leading up to the attack. Authorities also were going over a cellphone, computer and camera taken from Hodgkinson’s white van, which was parked near the ballfield.

So far, investigators have not linked Hodgkinson to any radical groups, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

James Hodgkinson protests outside the United States Post Office in Downtown Belleville, Illinois, April 17, 2012. (Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat, via AP)

Following a day that saw most congressional business canceled, the House approved legislation offering health insurance tax credits to some veterans while committees pondered federal land management, cybersecurity and more. The Capitol’s usual partisan combativeness, though not absent, was less pointed than usual, and warm words were exchanged between some lawmakers with starkly opposing political philosophies.

“There is so much you do that I disagree with,” Republican House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a staunch conservative, told his panel’s top Democrat, unwavering liberal Democrat Maxine Waters. “But you have long since earned my respect, and you deserve to be heard, and you are an honorable individual.”

Addressing Scalise, veteran Democrat John Lewis said, “You are not alone. … We love you.” Lewis led a House floor Democratic sit-in last year when Republicans refused to consider gun control legislation.

Members of both parties said they needed to soften rhetorical attacks on each other, if only to set a better example for a public that seems increasingly divided into hostile political camps. It’s a sentiment lawmakers frequently express after mass shootings or terrorist attacks, only to see their sharp oratorical elbows gradually return.

Underscoring the day’s mood, the Rev. Patrick Conroy, the House chaplain, opened the day by seeking divine forgiveness “when we seem to forget that words matter and can become seeds that will bring bitter harvest.”

Still, finger-pointing lingered as some on each side suggested the other had contributed more to the disparaging broadsides they’ve increasingly aimed at each other.

Republican Steve King said in a brief interview that Democrats would be reminded of “positions they’ve taken in the past that are not consistent with their voice for bipartisanship today.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recounted candidate Trump’s comments prodding supporters to pummel demonstrators at rallies and said Republicans were being “sanctimonious.”

The shooting prompted talk of improving security for lawmakers, most of whom are unaccompanied by officers in their normal day-to-day pursuits. Some have suggested using federal money to provide security cameras in their offices, while others spoke of a need for protection when groups of them appear in public.

The House used a voice vote Thursday to approve a resolution lauding the Capitol Police for protecting lawmakers and stating that “violence has no place” in society. A reading of the measure received a standing ovation.

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