House Majority Whip Steve Scalise returned to the Capitol Thursday to a standing ovation from his colleagues as he walked out on the House floor on crutches to deliver an emotional speech announcing his plans to officially return to work.
“You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work in the people’s house,” the Louisiana Republican said.
Scalise said the past 3 ½ months since he was critically injured during a shooting at a GOP Congressional Baseball Game practice in Alexandria, Virginia, have been challenging times for his family, but he’s been comforted by the “outpouring of love, of warmth, of prayer.”
God was one of the things that Scalise said helped him pull through.
“When I was out on that ballfield, the first thing I did once I was down and couldn’t move anymore was pray,” he said, adding, “Pretty much every one of those prayers was answered.”
Scalise also credited Capitol Police for saving his life and specifically thanked officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey. Bailey was in the chamber for Scalise’s return, and the House provided him with a standing ovation as well.
Watch: Scalise’s Full Remarks to House
“Even after being shot both themselves, [they] continued to engage the shooter and ultimately got him down,” Scalise said.
Maine GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin was the first member to approach Scalise as he entered the chamber, embracing him in a giant hug. Other members also hugged Scalise or patted him on the arm or back as he walked to a podium on the GOP side of the chamber.
Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond was among the Republicans, right behind Scalise as his friend delivered his remarks.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, said at a news conference after Scalise’s return, that he was happy to see his friend “Steve-o,” but that he was emotionally pushed.
“I’m not like John Boehner, I’m not a big crier, but I was just a babbling idiot. I couldn’t compose myself,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
Ryan said he prayed constantly and that it’s “really miraculous” how far Scalise has come since the shooting.
“For a couple of days there were thought we had a real chance of losing him,” he said.
Scalise also thanked his wife, Jennifer, and blew a kiss to her in the gallery where she was watching. He also thanked his doctors, some of whom appeared to be in the gallery as well.
Republicans and Democrats visited and reached out to Scalise while he was in the hospital and the rehabilitation facility, and he said how much he appreciated it, along with all the members and staff present for his return Thursday.
“Just seeing the faces of all of you means more to me than you could imagine,” he said.
The thing that Scalise said struck him the most, though, was the outpouring of support from world leaders, many of whom he had never met.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke briefly to welcome Scalise back, saying, “Thank God our prayers are answered,” and noting that Democrats and Republicans were and are on Team Scalise.
“I take great pride in Steve because we’re both Italian-American, and I think that’s the source of some of his strength,” the California Democrat said.
After his remarks, Scalise cast his first vote since the shooting, a “yes” on a measure to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for six months and provide tax relief for hurricane victims.
Members lined up to personally greet Scalise, all hugs and smiles as they approached.
Shortly before returning to the House floor, Scalise tweeted his return.
I’m back. pic.twitter.com/vuqYQorM6U
Scalise was one of five people shot when a gunman opened fire at the Republicans’ Congressional Baseball Game practice in Alexandria, Virginia, on June 14, but the only member of Congress who was hit.
Scalise’s Capitol Police detail, two officers who were among the wounded, has been credited with saving the lives of many present.
The high-powered rifle bullet that hit Scalise in his left hip fragmented into hundreds of pieces, which caused internal bleeding, a fractured pelvis and a broken leg.
Scalise, who was in critical condition when he first arrived at MedStar Washington Hospital Center after the shooting, underwent multiple surgeries over the six weeks that he was in the hospital.
In late July the majority whip was released from the hospital and moved to an inpatient rehabilitation facility, where he continued his recovery.
House Chief Deputy Whip Patrick T. McHenry has been leading the whip operation in Scalise’s absence, although Scalise maintained contact while in rehabilitation, even calling in to a few meetings.