Can this congressman promote Capitol Hill unity?

Steve Scalise is back at work.

His office is on Capitol Hill. He is a Republican member of Congress from Louisiana. Rep. Scalise also serves in a leadership position with the GOP caucus in the House of Representatives.

He has been away from the office for a while. You see, Scalise was nearly shot to death earlier this summer while practicing for a congressional baseball game along with his fellow Republican caucus teammates.

Scalise was rushed to the hospital. His condition became critical. His bullet wounds caused immense internal bleeding.

But now, thank goodness, he is recovering. He walks with crutches. He is unsteady on his feet. This past week, though, he walked onto the floor of the House to a thunderous ovation from a packed chamber of his colleagues.

And that brings me to the point of this blog post.

The tears of joy flowed across both sides of the partisan aisle. Democrats cried and cheered along with Republicans. Their friend and colleague was back. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, took the floor to proclaim her joy at Scalise’s return and credited jokingly that his “Italian heritage” — which Pelosi shares — enabled him to return to work after suffering such grievous wounds.

So, the question emerges: Was this bipartisan joyous welcome a harbinger of a potentially new era on Capitol Hill?

It might be said that such a “new era” would in fact be a return to an older time, when Ds and Rs got along after hours. They were just political adversaries, not enemies.

Scalise said on a “60 Minutes” episode broadcast tonight that he doesn’t believe Republicans and Democrats are that far apart on many key issues. He wouldn’t predict a return to a more civil atmosphere under the Capitol Dome, but he sounded mildly hopeful that his near-tragedy well might signal a return to the collegiality that’s been missing for far too long in Washington, D.C.

Can unity return?

Americans of all stripes should hail the recovery of Rep. Scalise. We all should welcome the tremendous affection demonstrated on the floor of the House when he made his dramatic return to work.

Let us hope it does signal a renewed spirit of unity.

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