WASHINGTON - The top Republican and Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, often at sharp odds over contentious government policies, joined Wednesday in a common plea for humanity in the immediate aftermath of a gunman's attack on a congressman and four others at a baseball field.
“We are united, we are united in our shock, we are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican leader, told a hushed and packed chamber hours after the shooting in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. Representative Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican, was wounded while practicing for a charity congressional baseball game.
“I ask each of you to join me to resolve, to come together, to lift each other up and to show the country, to show the world, that we are one House, the people's House, united in our humanity,” Ryan said. “It is that humanity which will win the day, and it always will.”
The leader of the minority Democrats, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, said, “To my colleagues, you're going to hear me say something you've never heard me say before. I identify myself with the remarks of the speaker. They were beautiful remarks, Mister Speaker. Thank you so much for the sentiments that they represent. Thank you so much.
“Again, we are not one caucus or the other in this House today,” Pelosi said. “But I — we speak for each other in saying that we send our thoughts and prayers to our colleague, Steve Scalise. Personally, we have our Italian-American connection, so as soon as I heard his name, I was filled with concern as I would be for anyone here, but we had that special connection, so our hopes and prayers. And I said to the speaker, I'll be asking you every five minutes, how is Steve coming along.”
Ryan's and Pelosi's statements calling for a sense of decency at a time of violence echoed those of President Donald Trump.
In a White House address, Trump said, “We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because above all they love our country. We can all agree we are blessed to be Americans.”
Two of the shooting victims were U.S. Capitol Police officers, Krystal Griner and David Bailey, assigned to guard Scalise since he is one of the House leaders. The two officers apparently were the only law enforcement officers at the scene when the gunfire erupted.
Ryan and others said that without the two officers returning fire at the gunman, identified by police as James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois, many might have been killed. Hodgkinson later died at a Washington hospital.
The House speaker said he spoke with both Bailey and Griner and “expressed our profound gratitude to them. It is clear to me based on various eyewitness accounts that without these two heroes, Agent Bailey and Agent Griner, many lives would have been lost.”