House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s near-fatal shooting in June —which kept him out of commission for over three months —was arguably the only thing that managed to unite Congress over the summer, with both Republicans and Democrats fervently wishing for his recovery. But he’s hoping that unity may set a precedent to produce legislative successes going forward.
“Hopefully this might have pulled us a little bit closer together. It’s easy for that to go away, but — I would hope that we — we focus on how we can achieve some of those things that we haven’t been able to get done yet,” Scalise told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell in a 60 Minutes interview, his first since the shooting.
Scalise was critically wounded on June 14, when 66-year-old James Hodgkinson opened fire on a field in Alexandria, Va. Congressional Republicans were practicing for their upcoming baseball game against the Democrats, a longstanding bipartisan tradition. Scalise was one of five people who were shot, but his injuries were the most severe — he was shot in the left hip, and the bullet infiltrated his internal organs, causing massive blood loss. He was transported to Medstar Hospital in Washington on a helicopter.
“I found out later just how much damage was done internally,” Scalise said on 60 Minutes. “There was a lot of damage inside that had to get fixed.”
Scalise also described the moments immediately following the shooting, explaining how he tried to crawl away from the gunfire. When his body gave out, he said, he began to pray. “I prayed, “God, please don’t let my daughter have to walk up the aisle alone,” he said. “That was the first thing that came to mind.”
The Louisiana congressman spent six weeks at MedStar, nearly half of which were spent in intensive care, according to 60 Minutes. Although he has begun the recovery process, pieces of the bullet that hit him are expected to remain lodged in his body for the rest of his life, according to 60 Minutes.
Despite his long road to recovery, he walked into the Capitol on Thursday to a standing ovation from the chamber. But fierce policy fights on issues like tax reform and the debt ceiling likely loom ahead. However, he said he does think Republicans and Democrats have the potential to find common ground.
“Ultimately, on some of these issues, we’re not that far apart,” Scalise said. “But when everybody goes into their separate corners, its just real easy to it’s just real easy to — to demonize — the other side instead of saying, ‘Okay, how can we come together and figure out how to get done what’s important for the country?'”