Columns

Dem, GOP Leaders Mark New Spirit of Cooperation with First-Ever Joint Interviews

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — The top Dems and GOPs in the House and Senate marked the Congressional Baseball Game and a new sense of comity by giving their first-ever joint interviews on the sidelines of the game Thursday evening.

Thanks to star pitcher Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), a good friend of wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the Dems ran away with the 11-2 win. But the Dem lawmakers decided to give the trophy to the Republicans to display in Scalise’s office.

“Earlier today, Congressman Steve Scalise underwent a second surgery related to his internal injuries and a broken bone in his leg. He remains in critical condition, but has improved in the last 24 hours,” MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Thursday evening. “The congressman will require additional operations, and will be in the hospital for some time. At the request of the family, we will continue to provide periodic updates.”

Scalise was shot in the hip Wednesday during the Republicans’ early-morning baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika, shot multiple times in the chest, was upgraded from critical to serious condition Thursday. Capitol Police Special Agent Crystal Griner remained in the hospital in good condition after being shot in the ankle.

Congressional aide Zack Barth, shot in the leg, was at the game on crutches, alongside his boss Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), who was hobbling from a sprained ankle. Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, who was lightly wounded in the shootout and on crutches, threw out the game’s first pitch alongside Major League Baseball’s chief baseball officer Joe Torre.

Nearly 25,000 people poured into Nationals Stadium, far exceeding any previous attendance for the long-running annual event and raising more than $1 million for D.C. charities.

“We were shocked like everybody else, that anybody would come in and start shooting at our members. That’s something I don’t think anybody contemplated,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said alongside Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a ballpark interview on CNN. “We had a pretty active group of opponents in the country, but this is the first time anybody, as far as I know, has taken up arms.”

“There’s a lot of heated rhetoric from all different directions. It doesn’t excuse this. It doesn’t condone it, but it’s a good reminder that maybe we can bring the temperature down across the country and the Congress and everywhere else,” Schumer added.

McConnell stressed that he and Schumer “don’t dislike each other” and “work together all the time,” on a “daily basis.”

“We have our political arguments but at the end of the day, we are all Americans. And I think everybody needs to remember that because we’re all in this thing together,” the GOP leader said.

Schumer noted their agreement this week on an otherwise “contentious” bill to block the administration’s ability to roll back Russia sanctions without congressional approval.

“Look, we ought to be able to have big robust debates in the country without having this level of animosity that a lot of people feel. I think most Americans have not read a lot of history,” McConnell added. “We’ve had a lot of very contentious periods throughout our 230-year history.”

“I can root for the Democrats, but we can still be friends. That’s a model,” Schumer said. “Baseball is a good — some of my best friends hate the Yankees. I love them.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also spoke to CNN, with Pelosi wearing an LSU T-shirt in honor of Scalise. Ryan wore a Capitol Police T-shirt.

“It’s a tough age. It’s partisan, polarized country. What we’re trying to do is tone down the rhetoric, lead by example, and show people we can disagree with one another and we can have different ideas without being vitriolic, without going to such extremes. And so, that’s what we’re trying to demonstrate here,” Ryan said.

“And members of Congress have to get out and see their constituents. They’ve got to interact with their constituents, and so, we can’t have a deep barrier between members of Congress and their constituents,” he added. “But we also have to be cognizant. Remember Gabby Giffords, yesterday, Steve Scalise. So, these are concerns that we have, but we have to do it in a balance, the openness and security.”

Asked if rhetoric on the left had gotten too intense, Pelosi replied, “No. I think the person who perpetrated the crime yesterday has. But I think that people feel very strongly in their convictions and some people — I always say you can be passionate about your beliefs, but you have to be dispassionate on how you proceed.”

“There is rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. It goes too far,” Ryan added. “And it’s our job to help make sure that it doesn’t go too far but that’s still passionate. And that’s basically the tone that we’re trying to set.”