Capitol Hill reacts after shooting at Alexandria baseball practice

WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders on Wednesday rose in unity in response to the shooting Wednesday morning at a Republican practice for the Congressional Baseball Game.

The House canceled all votes for the day late Wednesday morning, and Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed the House shortly after noon.

Both said that the shooting was an attack on all members of the House, and proclaimed the need for unity. They also indicated that the game would go on.

Ryan led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance, then began his remarks by saying “there are very strong emotions throughout this House today,” and called the shooting a “dreadful attack on our friend and our colleagues and those who serve and protect this capitol.”

He named the victims of the shooting as Rep. Steve Scalise, staffer Zachary Barth, lobbyist Matt Mika and Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Krystal Griner.

“We are, as ever, awed by the tremendous bravery of the Capitol Police,” Ryan said. He said he’d spoken with Baliey and Griner and “expressed our profound gratitude to them.” He added, “It is clear to me, based on various eyewitness accounts, that without these two heroes … many lives would have been lost.”

He also recognized the efforts of the Alexandria police.

Ryan cracked that Scalise “is likely really frustrated that he is not going to be able to play in the baseball game.”

“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 continued. “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 after hearing the news.”

“Every day we come here to test and to challenge each other,” Ryan said, adding that “At times our emotions can clearly get the best of us. We’re all imperfect, but we do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber. For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family.”

“Before this House returns to its business, let’s just slow down and reflect about … how we’re all being tested right now. Because we are being tested right now.”

He asked members to “resolve to come together, and 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. It is that humanity which will win the day, and it always will.”

Pelosi called the shooting “an injury in the family” and said that she would say “something you’ve never heard me say before: I identify myself with the remarks of the Speaker.”

She added that “You may not know this, but every time I pray … I pray for all of you – all of you together.” She said that in recent years she had been praying not only for the Congress’s work, “I’ve been praying for our safety.”

She also paused to remember Capitol Police Detective John Gibson and Officer Jacob Chestnut, who were killed in a shooting in the Capitol in 1998.

They then adjourned for the day.

Congressional reactions

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, said on Twitter that Barth, his staffer, was “expected to make a full recovery.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said in a statement that he was “shaken but unharmed.”

“Many people would have died this morning if not for the bravery of the Capitol Police,” Paul said. “They never hesitated to put their lives on the line to save everyone.”

He asked for prayers for everyone who was hurt.

Congressman Jim Banks, R- Illinois, said in a statement that he was praying for the wounded, adding that “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

The Senate was in session. On the floor, a measure imposing sanctions on people or companies helping Iran develop ballistic missiles was being debated. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs was holding a hearing on violent extremism.

WTOP Capitol Hill Correspondent Dave McConnell said that there’s much more security around Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, but that congressional offices remain open and Capitol tours continue.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democratic nominee for governor, said in a statement he was “horrified and saddened” by the news. The Hill reported that a planned unity event for Virginia Democrats had been canceled.

Ed Gillespie, who won the Republican primary for Virginia governor Tuesday night, said in a statement Wednesday morning that he would join lieutenant governor nominee Jill Vogel and attorney general nominee John Adams in prayer at a planned stop in Fairfax. All other campaign events, he said, would be canceled.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement that he and his wife “are shocked and deeply saddened” by news of the shooting and “are praying for swift recoveries for those who were injured.”

President Donald Trump has canceled his only official event of the day — a speech and executive-order signing at the Labor Department set for Wednesday afternoon.

‘A moment for reflection’

Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s delegate to the House, told McConnell that she gives and gets with Republicans in the House as strongly as anyone, but “that partisanship, that anger, dissolves when we leave the House floor. I was stunned that a shooter did not understand that this morning.”

She said of Wednesday’s speeches in the House, “It’s a moment for reflection: How did this happen? We are doing the right thing today by not having any House proceedings, because maybe we need to think more about what just happened.” Leadership needs to project the unity that was demonstrated Wednesday, “so that whatever partisanship we think we hear is not somehow relayed into action in the community.”

“I do think we may need more security than we thought we did.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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