WASHINGTON D.C. – We caught up with Steve Scalise as he and his staff entered a private entrance to the U.S. Capitol building. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Scalise was off to a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Scalise has made remarkable progress in his recovery from a gunshot wound that almost took his life during a Republican baseball practice last summer.
After meeting with House leaders behind closed doors, he and the rest of the leadership team met with the press to touch on a number of topics including tax reform. Then, we finally made it up to his office for a staff meeting.
The office, which is decorated with a lot of Louisiana flair, is prime property in the Capitol building with a painted ceiling and million dollar view over the steps of the U.S. Capitol. It’s all trappings that come with the position and power of his office.
There are staff members in two halls on this floor, but his total office space occupies part of three floors in the Capitol building. He has 30 staff members in Washington D.C. and another back home at his district office.
When he is at his office at the Capitol, his staff, many of whom call him “the boss,” come in and out to take care of business before he moves on to his next meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan.
To get there, Scalise takes a back spiral staircase along with his ever-present security detail. And for a man still recovering from a severe injury, he moves quite well.
“I want to get back. I want to get back to where I can run again,” Scalise said.
Then he is off to his meeting. And it is just the beginning of his day.
After his meeting with Ryan, Scalise is scheduled to address a Chamber of Commerce meeting being held by a fellow member of Congress from Texas. Scalise gets a standing ovation from the crowd, which impresses Congressman Bill Flores.
“How’s that for a warm welcome,” Flores said.
“Wow. Once we get started talking about LSU football, it’s going to change real quickly,” Scalise said.
After a fairly quick speech, he is off to a vote on the House floor with reporters camped outside.
Then finally, he is able to sit down with us in his meeting room just outside National Statuary Hall, which a century ago was the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Before Scalise came to power it was just office space, but the new Whip said that had to change.
“I came in and looked around and said, ‘How can you have all this history here and not share it with everyone else?’” Scalise said.
Scalise said he worked to re-design the space, moved staff to other places, and turned the room into a place to have receptions with other congress members.
“I said to the architect of the Capitol who runs the Capitol, ‘Can I call it the Lincoln room?’ and he said, ‘You can call it whatever you want!” Scalise said.
Scalise said it is important to remember the history of where he works. It is something he never takes for granted.
But the most important thing for Scalise is taking care of business in his district and the office of the Majority Whip.
“It’s a big job. We have a lot of responsibility. And when there is a bill on the floor, and we are moving our agenda, it is my job to make sure that we have the votes to pass the bill. So it’s a big deal,” Scalise said
For Louisiana, it has been a long time since a member of Congress held a leadership position like this. I asked him “How did Steve Scalise get there?”
“I really think it goes back to the adage of hard work. I really do take my job seriously. I consider it an honor to represent southeast Louisiana. But I also believe building relationships. I served in the Louisiana State House, I learned a lot there about the battles of politics. And certainly there are battles and divides, but there is also a real important need to build relationships with people to be effective.”
Since he made news around the world after nearly dying on that baseball field, Scalise admits that his profile has gotten a lot larger. And that means he is in more demand. That has helped him in his party and has made him a power player not just in Louisiana, but across the country.
“I am asked to help a lot of my colleagues who are in tough races. I think it is important that we keep this majority and continue to move our agenda. It’s great to be able to help other people and build better relationships.”
“I have a kind of never give up attitude. And persistence has gotten me to where I am today.”
After sitting down with us, Scalise was off to what he called a grueling physical therapy. His already long day did not end officially until 10 p.m. that night with an appearance on national television.
Tuesday, we will look at the more personal side of Steve Scalise and how being in a position of power in Washington has changed his life.