Scalise bucks up colleagues as he prepares for rehabilitation

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (center) meets with staff while checking on his vote count on Dec. 11, 2014, in his Capitol office. (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

A group of House Republicans got a surprise pep talk Monday from their missing man: Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who continues to recover from a gunshot wound suffered in last month’s baseball-practice shooting.

Scalise called in to the weekly Republican whip team meeting Monday evening and, according to several attendees, shared encouraging news: He has started the physical recovery process and could be transferred soon from Medstar Washington Hospital Center, where he has been hospitalized since the June 14 shooting, to a specialized rehabilitation facility.

There was no word on when Scalise might return to work. A spokesman, Chris Bond, said Scalise told the whips that “he is looking forward to working through the rehab process and returning to the Capitol once he is ready.”

Scalise has undergone a series of operations to address the wound to his hip, most recently a July 13 surgery to combat a “deep tissue infection.” Doctors at that time said he remained in fair condition.

Several members who participated in the call said Scalise sounded ready to get back to work.

“It was absolutely awesome,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), a deputy whip. “It sounded like Steve — always the entertainer, always the encourager. He sounded great. He can’t wait to get back with us is what he said.”

“He’s got a long rehabilitation ahead of him,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who was on the scene for the shooting. “His voice was strong, and his spirits seemed very, very positive. It was uplifting to hear him.”

Scalise’s call came on the same day the House passed the Wounded Officers Recovery Act, a bill allowing payments to seriously wounded Capitol Police officers from a fund currently intended for the families of officers killed in the line of duty. Monday was also the 19th anniversary of the killing of Capitol Police officers Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, who were shot dead by a mentally ill man near an entrance to the Capitol.

On the call, Bond said, Scalise expressed his appreciation for the two Capitol Police officers in his personal detail — David Bailey and Crystal Griner — who were wounded as they fended off shooter James T. Hodgkinson. “Crystal and David,” he said, “saved our lives.”