Conservative lawmaker known for love of baseball

Rep. Bergman calls for unity after shooting

Steve Scalise

WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve Scalise, a member of the House Republican leadership, is known for his love of baseball and the late-night meals he often serves his colleagues in his office near the Capitol’s ornate Statuary Hall.

Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, was shot Wednesday along with several others during a GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

Scalise distributed commemorative baseball bats to fellow members when he ran for a leadership post in 2014. The Louisiana conservative was elected majority whip, the job of chief vote counter for the GOP leadership team.

Scalise, 51, was first elected to the House in 2008 and served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives, before becoming whip in the leadership shuffle that followed the surprise defeat of then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary.

In his whip campaign, he boasted about his conservative credentials and pointed out that he’d be the only GOP leader from the South, which had a major role in giving Republicans their largest House majority in decades.

Scalise, who was shot in the hip, was transported to a Washington hospital and was undergoing surgery. He is in stable condition.

“Prior to entering surgery, the whip was in good spirits and spoke to his wife by phone. He is grateful for the brave actions of U.S. Capitol Police, first responders and colleagues,” his office said in a statement.

Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, said in a Facebook post earlier today that he is “dismayed by the instance of violence at this morning’s practice for the Congressional Baseball Game.”

“As a Marine, you’re always prepared for the worst, but you hope you can avoid it,” he said in the post. “I’m blessed to be safe, and my prayers are with Congressman Steve Scalise and the other folks who were injured. The security and other forces who responded and neutralized the danger are the real heroes here, and I’m incredibly grateful.

“We’re still waiting for information about motive, but this is a good time for all of us to reflect on unity and division,” he said. “We’re all human. We have a responsibility to honor and protect each other. We’re more the same than not.”

Bergman was one of three Republican members of Michigan’s congressional delegation that were with lawmakers who were practicing baseball when a gunman opened fire at the field in suburban Washington.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop gave an eyewitness account Wednesday to Detroit radio station WWJ. He says many more people would have been shot if security staff hadn’t returned fire.

Bishop says he was at home plate when the gunman approached with a rifle. Bishop says Scalise was a “sitting duck” on second base.

Bishop was with fellow Michigan Republican John Moolenaar and Bergman. They weren’t hurt.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Genesee County was at a different baseball practice for Democrats.

Scalise has forged a close relationship with President Donald Trump, working together on the House health care bill and a pending effort to overhaul the tax code. Trump said in a tweet today that Scalise is “a true friend and patriot,” adding that he “was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”

As the No. 3 House Republican, Scalise has a security detail assigned to him at all times. Lawmakers who were at the practice said the shootings could have been much worse if the security detail was not there.

Scalise represents a district that includes some New Orleans suburbs and bayou parishes. Before entering Congress, he was a lawmaker in Louisiana for eight years.

Scalise faced questions last year about some of his Louisiana ties. Six months after his election as whip, it came to light that he had spoken in 2002 to a white supremacist group founded by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Scalise apologized for the speech and said he was unaware of the group’s racial philosophy when he agreed to speak as a state legislator.

“I reject bigotry of all forms,” Scalise said then.

He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children.

Matt Rudiger, a 45-year-old salesman who was at a Metairie, Louisiana, coffee shop near Scalise’s district office, said the shooting “really hit close to home” because he and Scalise both graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie.

“We’re all brothers. I feel like it happened to one of us,” Rudiger said.

Paul Taylor Sr., who was at the same coffee shop, said the shooting makes him worried that politicians are becoming targets of gunmen.

“They’re getting into shooting down more well-known people now — more important people to the political system,” Taylor said.