It has been a tense week on Capitol Hill. The shocking shooting early Wednesday morning of five people at a park within a few miles of the Capitol was an ugly reminder of how overheated our nation’s political environment has become.
Republican Members of Congress and their aides were practicing for an annual charity baseball game when a man opened fire, critically wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others, including two Capitol Police officers.
Several members of the Texas delegation were at the park during the shooting, including Reps. Joe Barton, Kevin Brady, Michael Conaway, and Roger Williams. One of Williams’ aides was among those shot. Barton had his young son at the park with him.
In the aftermath of the shooting, it has come to light that the victims were targeted because they were Republicans. That should appall all of us regardless of political affiliation.
Everyone who serves is a patriot. No matter our differences, we cannot allow our frustrations with the political process to turn to anger. We must strive to resolve our disagreements through peaceful discussion, not violence. If we fail to do so, we lose a part of what makes our nation exceptional.
It is a credit to the character of the victims – and to the Members of Congress overall – that the Congressional Baseball Game went ahead as scheduled the following day. Bipartisan events like the baseball game are all too rare these days and are sorely needed to bring Members from opposing sides together outside of the political arena.
Bipartisanship is crucial in Washington, which is why I am grateful for the many opportunities I have had to work closely with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) over the years. It is because of this that we have formed a close friendship. Despite our differences of party and geography, there is a lot we can agree on, and when we disagree, we do so with respect.
Many people do not realize that most Members of Congress do not have a personal security detail assigned to them. The Capitol Police provide security to House and Senate leadership only. The Capitol Police do an amazing job of protecting Congress when we are inside the Capitol, but beyond the Hill or back in our districts, we do not have special protection. When I am home, the Fort Worth Police are aware of my schedule and my public activities but like most Members of Congress, I do not travel with a security detail.
The two Capitol Police officers who at the ballpark Wednesday were members of Whip Scalise’s security detail. Had Scalise missed practice that morning or left early, the officers would have been elsewhere. Luckily, they were not. Their quick action to engage the shooter and draw him away from the other people at the park saved lives. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and their families. I wish them a speedy and full recovery. As you engage in the political process and your First Amendment right to free speech, please remember to be kind to one another.