US congressman Steve Scalise undergoes another operation after shooting

US House Majority Whip Steve Scalise leaves during the House vote on continuing a resolution on a budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, on April 28, 2017.
US House Majority Whip Steve Scalise leaves during the House vote on continuing a resolution on a budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, on April 28, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Representative Steve Scalise underwent a third operation on Thursday (June 15), a day after suffering serious wounds when a man who had expressed anger toward President Donald Trump opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice, a source familiar with his condition said.

Trump on Thursday reiterated his call for unity in the aftermath of the shooting in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia. But Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, criticised some Republicans who have blamed the shooting on vitriol from the political left.

Scalise, a congressman from Louisiana who is the No. 3 House Republican, suffered injuries to internal organs, broken bones and severe bleeding after being shot in the left hip on a baseball field in Alexandria where he and other lawmakers were practicing for a charity baseball game.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Scalise was undergoing another surgical procedure on Thursday. Vice-President Mike Pence earlier on Thursday said he visited MedStar Washington Hospital Centre, where Scalise was being treated.

Scalise, 51, and three others were wounded when a man identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, from the St Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois opened fire on the Republican lawmakers. The others wounded were a police officer, a congressional aide and a lobbyist.

Trump, who visited Scalise at the hospital on Wednesday, said Scalise was “in some trouble but he’s going to be okay, we hope.”

“It’s been much more difficult than people even thought at the time,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday, adding that he also had visited a wounded Capitol Police officer at the hospital.

The gunman, who had a history of posting angry messages against Trump and other Republicans on social media, died after being wounded by police.

The shooting has raised questions about lawmakers’ security, renewed the nation’s contentious debate over guns and drawn fresh attention to the harsh rhetoric that reflects America’s political polarisation.

The charity game pitting Republican lawmakers against their Democratic colleagues was set to proceed as scheduled at 7.05pm at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team, with thousands of spectators expected in the stands.

AN EYE ON CIVILITY

Many lawmakers in both parties, as well as the President, called for unity after the shooting. But at a news conference, Pelosi bristled at comments made by a few Republicans and conservative activists in the aftermath of the shooting who blamed heated Democratic rhetoric for the incident.

“The comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous, beneath the dignity of the job that they hold, beneath the dignity of the respect that we would like Congress to command. How dare they say such a thing,” Pelosi said.

She said Republican vitriol and caricatures of her have resulted in “calls to my home constantly, threats in front of my family, really predicated on their comments and their paid ads.”

Pelosi also cited past remarks by Trump, saying, “You have a President who says, ‘I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and nobody would care.’” S

he did not specify which comments by Republicans she objected to.

Among others, Republican Representative Steve King wrote on Twitter that “violence is incited by the leading cultural voices of the Left” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich cited an“increasing hostility on the left.”

Trump, however, on Thursday spoke of potential political healing.

“Steve, in his own way, may have brought some unity to our long-divided country,” he said.

Some Republican lawmakers pointed to the President’s own rhetoric.

“I would like to see the President stay off of Twitter,” Republican Senator John Thune told MSNBC, adding that lawmakers had to do their part to tone down comments and work with the opposing party.