WASHINGTON: Early one morning in June 2017, Steve Scalise was standing at second base during practice for a politicians’ charity baseball game when a gunman opened fire at the players, shooting him in the hip.
The attack, by a shooter who was targeting Republican lawmakers, left Scalise with life-threatening injuries and facing a long and painful recovery.
Now Scalise, a hardline conservative who opposes abortion, immigration and gun control, could become second in line to the presidency after Republicans nominated him for speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday (Oct 11).
The 58-year-old congressman from Louisiana has long been considered a rising star in the Republican Party, a gregarious lawmaker who currently holds the influential role of House Majority Leader.
He has been seen as a bridge between Trump-era conservatives and more traditional establishment Republicans.
And, as an increasingly powerful right-wing lawmaker, he also draws savage criticism from many Democrats and progressives.
In 2014, Scalise had to face down demands for his resignation after admitting he addressed a gathering with ties to Ku Klux Klan former leader David Duke.
Scalise apologised, saying “it was a mistake I regret”.
But, despite his shooting injuries, an issue on which Scalise has made no concessions is gun control.
He is a fierce supporter of the National Rifle Association, which gives him an A+ rating, and has voted repeatedly to expand gun rights.
Scalise “will continue fighting to protect every citizen’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms”, his website says.
He has routinely opposed gun control legislation, even taking to the House floor for a speech criticizing activists in April 2013, just four months after 20 elementary school children and six adults were shot dead.
“We were all shocked and saddened by the murders at Sandy Hook. But I think what’s also disappointing, is when you have these tragedies, unfortunately there are people – Washington politicians – that try to take advantage of those tragedies to then come behind and try to impose their agenda,” he said.