Rep. Steve Scalise made his comeback to the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday. He entered the chamber to a standing ovation from colleagues, using two canes and wearing royal blue tennis shoes with his suit. There was a giant smile on his face as the Louisiana Republican’s friends descended for hugs and high fives and he took his place to speak.
Scalise has been recovering from a gunshot wound since June, and this was his first appearance back at work. The House majority whip was seriously injured in a June 14 attack on a group of Republicans by James Hodgkinson, an Illinois man who opened fire after asking fellow congressmen their party identification as they practiced for the congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Va. Hodgkinson was killed by Capitol Police, who were there as part of the whip’s security detail.
“You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work in the people’s House,” Scalise said after House Speaker Paul Ryan recognized him with a joking nod to House rules: “For what purpose does the gentleman from Louisiana seek recognition?” Ryan asked. “The gentleman is recognized for as much time as he may consume.”
Scalise referenced briefly that the last three months had been tough for his family, but quickly turned to gratitude.
“If you look at the outpouring of love of warmth of prayer,” he said, “It has given us the strength to get through all this and get to this point today. And it starts with God.”
I’m back. pic.twitter.com/vuqYQorM6U
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) September 28, 2017
Scalise told the story of the moment he was shot.
“The first thing I did once I was done and I couldn’t move is I prayed. It gave me an unbelievable sense of calm,” he said. “I prayed for very specific things. Pretty much every one of those prayers was answered and they were some pretty challenging prayers I was putting in God’s hands. It just gives you renewed faith and understanding that the power of prayer is just something you can’t underestimate.”
Scalise spoke for 15 minutes, thanking his colleagues and his Capitol Police protection. He was stabilized on the baseball field by fellow Rep. Brad Wenstrom, an Iraq veteran. Capitol Police officers David Bailey and Crystal Griner risked their lives protecting the congressmen as they took down the shooter. Griner was shot and unable to attend Scalise’s speech, but Bailey was on hand and also got a standing ovation.
“David, you are my hero. You saved my life,” Scalise said.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 28, 2017
Scalise thanked his medical team and his wife, Jennifer, for their support in the months of recovery. He was in the hospital for six weeks after being struck by one bullet in the left hip. The bullet traveled through the pelvic area, causing internal bleeding, and Scalise underwent several surgeries.
“Several of them, my life was very much in the balance,” he said. “[My medical team] gave me a second chance at life.”
Since then, Scalise has been in intense rehabilitation, relearning to walk.
Scalise mentioned that world leaders, such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May and Jordan’s King Abdullah, had reached out to him in addition to other leaders he’d never met before.
“What it says is, sure they cared about my wellbeing, but more than that, they saw this as an attack on all of us,” Scalise said. “They saw this as an attack on the institution of our Congress and our government.”
Other world leaders "cared about my well-being, but more than that, they saw this as an attack on all of us," Scalise says pic.twitter.com/6eheuuqpom
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 28, 2017
“Our prayers have been answered” said Ryan, introducing Scalise. “What an inspiration you have been to this House and the people it serves. America is grateful for this moment.”
Scalise closed by saying the shooting, which he referred to as an “evil act,” had changed him “not in the ways you might think.”
“It has only strengthened my faith in God and it’s really crystallized what shows up as the goodness in people,” he said.
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 28, 2017
His full remarks are here: