The normal rhythms of Congress were shattered on Wednesday morning by a shooting that injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, stunning lawmakers and staffers. But the best thing for Congress to do is just “move on,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham.
The South Carolina Republican, one of the best-known members of Congress, said he’s received no guidance to alter his movements in and around the Capitol after the shooting. And he said he and his colleagues should not spend time or energy worrying about their own safety.
"This is terrible. Just be grateful it wasn’t worse. You’ve got to just move on. The best thing we can all do is just get back work,” Graham told a handful of reporters. “I have long since stopped worrying about stuff like this. I have stopped worrying about things I can’t control.”
Though some committee hearings were canceled and House votes postponed, the Capitol was mostly operating as usual, albeit with a slightly heightened security presence. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said he met with constituents as usual on the Capitol grounds in the hours after the shooting.
“This is one of those freak deals. You can’t let it impact the way you do your daily activities,” Rounds said in an interview. “You’re not going to be able to perform your job and your responsibilities as well as you should if you’re looking over your shoulder all the time.”
Those Scalise has a security detail, rank-and-file members of Congress do not generally have such security presences unless there is an active threat against them. They walk in and out of the Capitol in public areas where they can be approached by reporters, tourists and even lobbyists. And at town halls, where “you never know who’s going to show up,” in Graham’s words, lawmakers generally have local police protecting them.
And occasionally members face explicit threats, like threats against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and his family in 2014.
“We’ve been very, very blessed to have so much good security around us and then we go home, we’re in public places, we have our local state police and all of them have been very good helping us and everything,” Manchin said. After this shooting, he added that “everybody will be on high alert. Because then what happens is, you have copycats.”
Yet visitors poured into the Capitol for tours and meetings with staffers and members, all part of an apparent effort by lawmakers to put on a brave face and continue Congress’s work.
“You’ve got to live. You just go about your business. It’s just, I see the world for what it is,” Graham said. “The threats against people in politics are real, but the threats against our soldiers? I’ve been in places where everyday you get up and everyday somebody is trying to kill you. So you put it all in perspective.”
Graham said a subsequent gun debate that’s almost sure to rear it’s head will end as it always has: “You’re not going to tell law-abiding people they can’t own a gun.” But he did say he hoped the shooting should have an effect on the brutal political discourse.
“One thing I hope we’ll all do is just watch our words. We’re running hot, to knock down the rhetoric would be a good thing,” Graham said.