The U.S. congressman who was shot and seriously injured in an attack on Republican lawmakers is showing “signs of improvement,” hospital officials said Saturday.
Representative Steve Scalise, a member of the House Republican leadership, underwent more surgery Saturday, according to officials at the hospital in the nation’s capital where he was admitted after Wednesday’s attack on a sports field in nearby Virginia.
A statement released by the MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Scalise’s condition had been upgraded, and that he was now listed as serious, rather than critical. On Friday, a senior doctor at the hospital said Scalise, 51, had been at the brink of death because of extensive blood loss when he arrived at the hospital by helicopter.
After Saturday’s surgery, which was not described in detail, Scalise “continues to show improvement,” the hospital statement said. “He is more responsive, and is speaking with his loved ones.”
Shooting on Virginia ball field
The 66-year-old gunman who shot Scalise and three other people was killed in a shootout with police at the baseball field in Alexandria, across the Potomac River from the U.S. Capitol.
Scalise and other Republican congressmen were practicing at the time for an annual game between Democratic and Republican legislators that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
Law enforcement officials have said they found a list of Republican lawmakers’ names on the body of James Hodgkinson, who apparently had been in the Washington area for several months stalking his targets. Witnesses at the baseball field said Hodgkinson asked a local resident about the party affiliation of the congressmen; a few moments after he learned they were Republicans, he produced a semiautomatic rifle and began firing volleys of shots.
Police and FBI officials declined to confirm media accounts that the list of names Hodgkinson carried was a “kill list”; they said the names were listed without any other comment. However, social media posts by the gunman earlier this year included profane comments about how much he disliked members of the Republican Party, which controls both houses of Congress.
Most seriously injured
Scalise was the most seriously injured of the four people Hodgkinson shot Wednesday morning. His physicians have indicated extensive hospital treatment will be necessary, followed by a period of rehabilitation.
Before the additional surgery Saturday, doctors had focused on repairing extensive damage to the blood vessels in Scalise’s abdomen, which was riddled by scores of bullet fragments. He was shot only once, but the high-powered-rifle round traveled from his left hip across his pelvis and shattered when it struck bone. He also suffered damage to a number of internal organs, which doctors have declined to discuss in detail.
His congressional post as House majority whip, the third-ranking member of the Republican leadership, presumably will remain vacant during the recuperation period.
With summer congressional recesses approaching, the House of Representatives is expected to be in session for only several weeks from now until the end of September, which closes out the U.S. government’s 2017 fiscal year.
Many members of the House and Senate from both major political parties spoke warmly this week about Scalise’s gregarious nature, and how well-liked he was by his peers.
Leading figures throughout the American political spectrum, from President Donald Trump to local leaders, have taken note of the shooting as a cautionary tale for the nation not to let differences of political opinion escalate to hatred, violence and bloodshed.
Watch: Unity Replaces Division at Congressional Charity Baseball Game
The attack cast a pall over Washington Wednesday, but leaders of both major parties vowed to return to business Thursday, and the annual congressional baseball game went on as scheduled that night.
The contest is a summertime tradition in Washington dating to 1909, a time for friendly competition between Republicans and Democrats even in years when fractious political debates are the norm on Capitol Hill.