Majority Whip Steve Scalise was met with rousing applause as he entered the U.S. House on Thursday for the first time since a gunman gravely wounded him and sprayed an Alexandria, Virginia, baseball field with bullets more than three months ago.
Scalise, R-La., limped into the chamber on crutches before taking his place behind a podium and addressing his colleagues. He thanked his team of doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for "[giving] me a second chance in life." This was his first public appearance since the shooting.
"The power of prayer is something that you cannot underestimate. I am definitely a living example that miracles do happen," Scalise said.
Before his appearance on the House floor, the congressman tweeted a picture of himself standing on the steps of the Capitol, looking out toward the Washington Monument with the words, "I'm back."
Scalise was one of four people shot during a congressional Republican baseball practice in June. The 51-year-old was struck in the hip and the bullet shattered blood vessels, bones and internal organs along the way. Doctors said he arrived at a hospital at imminent risk of death.
The gunman, 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, of Illinois, was shot dead by U.S. Capitol Police. The rifle-wielding attacker had nursed grievances against President Donald Trump and income inequality. Hodgkinson had also been critical of the GOP and was reportedly carrying a handwritten list of House Republicans' names, according to officials, NBC News' Pete Williams reported.
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Hodgkinson had told his wife he was headed to Washington to work with "people to change the tax brackets," she said.
Scalise was hospitalized for more than a month and has since been undergoing rehabilitation treatment. He was released from MedStar Washington Hospital Center in July and transferred to an intensive inpatient rehabilitation.
Scalise on Thursday thanked the two Capitol Hill police officers who helped kill the shooter, and he praised the doctors who patched him together through repeated surgeries. The officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey, were also injured.
"David, you are my hero," Scalise said to Bailey, who was in the chamber. "You saved my life."
Griner is still recovering at home.
The lawmaker also thanked his wife, Jennifer, who watched from the visitor's gallery.
President Trump tweeted a "welcome back" message at Scalise Thursday afternoon.
Seated behind Scalise was Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., star of the Democrats' baseball team. Republicans and Democrats alike gathered around Scalise for selfies, a clear violation of House rules that neither party had any interest in enforcing.
Scalise's homecoming recalled the August 2011 return to the House of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was seriously wounded after a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
Since her shooting, Giffords has become a national leader of gun control efforts. The group she founded with husband Mark Kelly, Americans for Responsible Solutions, emailed a fundraising solicitation Thursday, asking for money to help pressure Congress "to put our safety ahead of the corporate gun lobby's profits."