After Alexandria shooting, Congress seeks normalcy, heads back to work

The business of the House was resuming a day after a rifle-wielding attacker opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game, critically wounding House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and hitting aides and Capitol police. The assailant, who had nursed grievances against President Trump and the GOP, fought a gunbattle with police before he, too, was shot and later died.

Colleagues said Scalise, who had been fielding balls at second base, dragged himself away from the infield, leaving a trail of blood before they rushed to his assistance. He was listed in critical condition Wednesday night at a Washington hospital, which said he will require several more operations.

The shooter was identified as James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old home inspector from Illinois who had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called "Terminate the Republican Party."

Capitol Police officers who were in Scalise's security detail wounded the shooter, who was taken into custody. He later died of his injuries, Mr. Trump told the nation from the White House.

"Everyone on that field is a public servant," Mr. Trump said, his tone somber, America's acrimonious politics set aside for the moment. "Their sacrifice makes democracy possible."

CBS News' Margaret Brennan reported that Mr. Trump was very aware of the delicate nature of what was unfolding and wanted to show "reverence and respect" for those injured. He did not want to get ahead of the facts when delivering his remarks. 

After visiting Scalise Wednesday evening at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Mr. Trump tweeted: "Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape - but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!"

In Washington, the shocking events left the Capitol horrified and stunned, and prompted immediate reflection on the current hostility and vitriol in American politics. Lawmakers called for a new dialogue on lowering the partisan temperature, and Mr. Trump urged Americans to come together as he assumed the role of national unifier for one of the first times in his presidency.

Proceedings were canceled for the day in the House, and instead Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California issued their own calls for unity. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," Ryan said, to prolonged applause. He added, "I ask each of you to join me to come together, to lift each other up, to show the country that we are one house, the people's house, it is that humanity that will always win." He also joked that Scalise was mad he would not be able to play in the baseball game.

Pelosi, echoing Ryan's remarks said, "To my colleagues you are going to hear me say something you have never heard me say before, I identify myself with the remarks of the speaker. They were beautiful remarks Mr. Speaker." She also called the shooter's actions cowardly.

Thursday's House proceedings are to resume as usual, and lawmakers were returning to the Capitol in search of some semblance of normalcy.

Shortly after the shooting, Bernie Sanders, the former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on the Senate floor that the shooter apparently was a volunteer for his campaign last year. Sanders said he denounced the violence "in the strongest possible terms."

Scalise, 51, the No. 3 House Republican leader, was first elected in 2008. The popular and gregarious lawmaker is known for his love of baseball and handed out commemorative bats when he secured the job of House whip several years ago.

Texas Rep. Roger Williams said that one of his aides, Zack Barth, was shot but was doing well and expected to fully recover. Two Capitol Police officers sustained relatively minor injuries. A former congressional aide was hospitalized.

The shooting occurred at a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, where Republican lawmakers and others were gathered for a morning practice about 7 a.m. They were in good spirits despite the heat and humidity as they prepared for the congressional baseball match that pits Republicans against Democrats. The popular annual face-off, which raises money for charity, is scheduled to go forward as planned Thursday evening at Nationals Park in Washington.

Hodgkinson has been in the area since March, living out of his van, said local FBI Special Agent In Charge Tim Slater. Democratic former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille said he had spoken often with the man on recent mornings at the nearby YMCA.

Hodgkinson's apparent Facebook page included strong criticism of Republicans and the Trump administration. But Slater said authorities were still working to determine a motive and had "no indication" Hodgkinson knew about the ball practice ahead of time.

The wounded Capitol Police officers were identified as David Bailey, who was treated for a minor injury, and Crystal Griner, who was shot in the ankle. Also wounded was former congressional aide Matt Mika, who now works for Tyson Foods in its Washington office. Mika's family said the lobbyist was shot multiple times and was in critical condition following surgery.

The event raised questions about the security of members of Congress. While the top lawmakers, including Scalise, have security details, others do not and they regularly appear in public without protection. The last time a lawmaker was shot was when Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona was hit in the head and grievously injured while meeting with constituents at a supermarket parking lot in 2011.

Following the Giffords shooting, lawmakers have held fewer open town halls and have been advised to increase security at such events.

The charity game that the Republican members were practicing for is also still set to resume Thursday evening. The Washington Nationals, who hosts the game every year, said the bipartisan event shows "baseball's power to bring people together." Members erupted in applause in the House on Wednesday after Ryan urged his colleagues the game would indeed go on. 

This year, the proceeds from the $10 tickets are intended to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Nationals Dream Foundation and Washington Literacy Center.