Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise returned to work at the Capitol on Thursday after spending months recovering from the June GOP baseball practice where he was shot when a gunman opened fire.
"It feels great to be back," Scalise told reporters as he walked out of his office Thursday.
Members of both parties stood, applauded, and cheered as Scalise walked into the House chamber Thursday morning, using crutches and giving them a wry shake of his head. Several members patted him on the back and went in for hugs.
"Our prayers have been answered," House Speaker Paul Ryan said, introducing Scalise, who addressed his colleagues on the House floor.
Scalise began by thanking members of Congress and the public for an "outpouring of love," saying "it's given us the strength to get through all of this." He also spoke of his faith, saying that his prayers were answered. "I'm definitely a living example that miracles really do happen," he said.
The lawmaker then went on to thank US Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey who, “after being shot both themselves, continued to engage the shooter" and, Scalise said, saved not only his life, but those of everyone on the field that morning. Griner could not be in the House chamber on Thursday, Scalise said, but members cheered for Bailey who was sitting in the gallery. “David, you are my hero. You saved my life," Scalise said.
After his speech, members presented Scalise with a baseball bat. A three-wheeled scooter decked out with an LSU Tigers decal and a "MAJ WHIP" license plate was also spotted just outside the House chamber, as he was speaking.
“Starting today, Whip Scalise will be resuming his work at the Capitol, while also completing an extended period of out-patient rehabilitation over the coming months,” according to a statement sent out by Scalise’s office.
Republicans and Democrats took to Twitter Thursday morning to welcome Scalise back to the Capitol. Even a few senators headed over to the House floor to greet him, including Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who said it was "an inspirational day."
"It's tremendous seeing him back, and I know [he's] still got a long way to go," Cornyn said.
Scalise thanked members on both sides of the aisle who supported him and sent him their well wishes as he recovered. He specifically mentioned Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, also of Louisiana, whom he called “the star of the [Congressional Baseball] game too many times.” Scalise said that Richmond “somehow figured out which hospital I was sent to and got there — [he] was probably first on the scene” after the shooting, noting that Richmond, who had been practicing with Democrats on another field, was still in his baseball uniform.
"A lot of people ask, did this event change you? ... Yes it changed me, but not in the ways you might think," Scalise said. "It's only strengthened my faith in God and it's really crystalized what shows up in the goodness of people. ... To me, all I remember are the thousands of acts of kindness that came out of this. ... [It] helped me realize just how wonderful most people are and just how much compassion is out there."
Ryan was "brought to tears" when he greeted Scalise earlier Thursday, according to CBS, which is filming a 60 Minutes segment with the Louisiana Republican that will air on Sunday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke briefly after Scalise finished his remarks, saying: “Thank God our prayers our answered."
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of House GOP leadership, told BuzzFeed News Scalise had called her Thursday morning to let her know he was coming back. "I thought he gave a powerful speech, wonderful to see him. Amazed that he could walk through those doors after everything he's been through," she said.
Scalise’s recovery process was long, requiring multiple surgeries and attention to deep-tissue infection related to his injuries, after he was shot in the hip.
Several others were injured at the Republican baseball practice that morning: lobbyist Matt Mika, Texas Rep. Roger Williams, his staffer Zack Barth, and both Griner and Bailey were all treated for their injuries.
Lissandra Villa is a politics reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Lissandra Villa at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.