The Northern Virginia shooting wounding a Republican House leader at a congressional baseball practice “is an attack on all of us,” Speaker Paul Ryan told the chamber on Wednesday afternoon.
In an impassioned floor speech hours after a gunman shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others, Ryan acknowledged the “very strong emotions” lawmakers are feeling.
“We are all horrified by this dreadful attack on our friends and on our colleagues and those who serve and protect this Capitol,” Ryan said. “We are all praying for those who were attacked and for their families.”
Police responded to reports of an active shooter on Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican lawmakers were practicing for Thursday’s annual congressional charity baseball game. Authorities have said at least five people were wounded, including Scalise, who is believed to be in stable condition. Other casualties include former House GOP aide Matt Mika, current House GOP aide Zack Barth and special agent David Bailey and another agent identified as Krystal Griner, though the spelling of her name isn’t confirmed.
“We are giving all our thoughts to those currently being treated for their injuries at this moment, and we are united,” Ryan said. “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.”
In a rare show of unity from an often divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seconded Ryan’s sentiments, something even the California Democrat conceded was unusual.
“To my colleagues, you’re gonna hear me say something you’ve never heard me say before: I identify myself with the remarks of the Speaker,” Pelosi said, drawing laughter from lawmakers. “They were beautiful remarks, Mr. Speaker. Thank you so much for the sentiments that they represent.”
Pelosi stressed Wednesday that “we are not one caucus or the other in this House today, but we speak for each other in saying we send our thoughts and prayers to our colleague Steve Scalise.”
She said she told Ryan she would be asking “every five minutes” for updates on Scalise’s condition and implored lawmakers to consider Capitol Police’s daily sacrifice and “how fortunate we all were that they were on the scene because other lives would have probably been lost.”
Ryan, who spoke with both special agents, extolled them for their heroism. “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,” he said.
Lawmakers were briefed on the incident by the sergeant at arms, and Thursday’s game will continue as planned, although Ryan joked, “Knowing Steve Scalise as we all do, he is likely really frustrated that he’s not gonna be able to play.”
“There are so many memories from this day that we will want to forget, and there are so many images that we will not want to see again,” Ryan said. “But there is one image in particular that this House should keep, and that is a photo I saw this morning of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news.”
The speaker was alluding to a photo that emerged from the Democrats’ practice showing them gathered in prayer for Scalise. Ryan said members of both parties come to work daily to “test and challenge each other,” sometimes letting their emotions get the best of them, but don’t “shed our humanity when we enter this chamber.”
“For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family,” he said. “These were our brothers and sisters in the line of fire. These were our brothers and sisters who ran into danger and saved countless lives.”
For her part, Pelosi echoed the familial nature of the House. The Democratic leader said she continues to pray often for her colleagues, including Republicans in Congress and even President Donald Trump.
“It’s in the family. It’s an injury in the family for the staff and for our colleague and for his leadership,” Pelosi said. “For this person to take this action was so cowardly — so cowardly.”
Wednesday’s attack, she said, was “particularly sad” because it came “at a time when people want us to come together and we were prepared to come together tomorrow night.”
“But we cannot let that be a victory for the assailant or anyone who would think that way,” Pelosi warned. “So tomorrow, we’ll go out on the field, we’ll root for our team … and we will use this occasion as one that brings us together and not separates us further.”