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Rooting for Scalise Through Hospital Ordeal: His 3 Capitol Roommates

New York Times

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Washington, June 17, 2017 | comments

In the hours following the Congressional Baseball Game, after a convincing win by the Democrats and the end of postgame schmoozing, three Republican congressmen returned late Thursday to a rowhouse they share and popped open a bottle of wine.

For the first time in years, their annual postgame ritual was missing a fourth roommate.

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana is the Republican team’s starting second baseman and the majority whip of the House of Representatives. But in this house, which he has shared since 2008 with Representatives John Shimkus of Illinois, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Kevin Brady of Texas, he is better known as the chatterbox who lives upstairs and another sports fanatic in an only-in-Washington living situation, where the price for moving in has been a willingness to demonstrate suitable baseball skills. The Congressional Baseball Game has been a part of household life for years.

“I thought it would be a good environment to get away from the craziness of the office that goes on all day,” said Mr. Paulsen, who moved in around the same time as Mr. Scalise. “I soon learned, ‘No, you’re going to play baseball, and we’ll be going to practice for several months early in the morning.’”

Mr. Scalise was the only one in the group still on the practice field in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday when a gunman, said to have been disgruntled by President Trump’s election win, opened fire and shot four people, including a member of Mr. Scalise’s security detail. Mr. Scalise was struck in the hip. Doctors upgraded his condition from critical to serious on Saturday.

All three of his roommates visited him in the hospital, and said they were worried to learn that his injuries were more extensive than they had initially thought. The bullet tore through bones and internal organs.

“The initial report about his injury was a little Pollyannaish,” Mr. Shimkus said. “It’s going to be a tough rest of the year for us.”

His roommates said the home they share, about a mile and a half from the Capitol in southwest Washington, had offered a bit of solace during a week marked by violence. Their living arrangement, complete with scuffed-up furniture, children’s toys and baseball photos on the wall, continues the Washington tradition of lawmakers who have decided to split the bill on an affordable, collegelike crash pad where they can spend a few days a week with like-minded colleagues. (Mr. Shimkus bought the home 15 years ago, and they split the mortgage costs, an amount they would not disclose, four ways.)

Their shared politics help: Policy discussions tend to creep up amid viewings of the western movie “Tombstone” or of endless sports coverage on ESPN, Mr. Shimkus said. But a love of baseball is what has drawn these colleagues together.

Mr. Scalise, 51, who is popular in his heavily Republican district and has been a Trump supporter, has been known as the night owl of the group, still able to wake up for practice and be out the door within minutes.
Representative Kevin Brady of Texas taking a swing during the game on Thursday. Mr. Brady and two other lawmakers share a house with Mr. Scalise in Washington.
Al Drago / The New York Times

“You’ve got three boring guys and one guy who’s kind of lively,” Mr. Shimkus said. “It’s been really quiet.”

In the days since the shooting, they said, life has been a blur of hospital visits, phone calls and, of course, the bright lights of a ballgame, this city’s last best attempt at bipartisan showmanship. The game included a prayer at second base in honor of Mr. Scalise, and staff members wore T-shirts emblazoned with a photo of the four congressmen, taken at a game years ago.

“With my roomies @RepShimkus @RepKevinBrady supporting @SteveScalise at congressional baseball game & pray for his recovery,” Mr. Paulsen tweeted on Thursday, posting a photo of him and his housemates wearing mismatched jerseys and yellow Louisiana State University hats, a tribute to Mr. Scalise’s alma mater.

“It was bittersweet,” Mr. Brady said. “It was a great night to come together, and Steve would’ve loved every minute of it.”

The across-the-aisle camaraderie displayed at the game is not likely to continue at the Capitol. Several partisan debates over issues including a tax overhaul, the budget and health care still loom large. Mr. Brady, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, said he spent his nights reading and reviewing policy from a battered green chair in the home the men share.

“The vitriol and the debate has gone so far to the extreme,” Mr. Shimkus said. “Compromise, which is the essence of public policy and passing laws, has been disparaged by extremes on both sides.”

None of the three congressmen said their roommate’s injury would change their stance on gun restrictions.

“I am even more adamant that we not politicize these tragedies,” said Mr. Brady, whose father was shot and killed in 1967, “and focus on the recovery of the victims.”

There has been discussion among the roommates about how to welcome Mr. Scalise home. Mr. Paulsen, who lives in the basement, said that he hoped Mr. Scalise would return eventually, and that the group had discussed rearranging bedrooms to make it easier on their friend, whose recovery is uncertain and is expected to be lengthy in any case.

“We’ll make any adjustments in the house that make it easy for him,” Mr. Paulsen said. “So if he needs to have accessibility downstairs, I’ll move my room in a heartbeat.”


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