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Congressman Steve Scalise returns to Capitol, 15 weeks after shooting

WASHINGTON — House majority whip Steve Scalise, at ‘‘imminent risk of death’’ when he was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound 15 weeks ago, made a dramatic return to the Capitol Thursday.

Scalise entered the House chamber on crutches to a roar of bipartisan applause, embraced several colleagues, and delivered his first floor remarks since the June 14 shooting.

‘‘You have no idea how great this feels, to be back at work in the people’s House,’’ the Louisiana Republican said.

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He added: ‘‘I’m definitely a living example that miracles really do happen.’’

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Though he walked slowly, Scalise showed little sign of physical weakness, delivering more than 15 minutes of remarks — thanking God, family, friends, colleagues, doctors, and law enforcement officers, who ultimately killed the shooter, 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, before he could harm more of the Republicans who had gathered for a morning baseball practice.

Scalise talked about the two Capitol Police officers on his security detail, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, who fired the first shots that were credited with preventing Hodgkinson from wounding or killing more people.

Bailey sat in the House gallery near Scalise’s wife, Jennifer Scalise, during the remarks.

‘‘You are my hero,’’ Scalise told Bailey. ‘‘You saved my life.’’

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The floor was packed for Scalise’s return — not only by House members, but also several senators, including Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who was present at the baseball practice and was among the first people to reach Scalise after he was shot.

Scalise took his usual place on the Republican side of the chamber, next to majority leader Kevin McCarthy of California and chief deputy whip Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina.

But sitting immediately behind him was his closest Democratic friend, Representative Cedric L. Richmond, a fellow Louisianian who Scalise said was among the first to arrive at the scene of the shooting and then to visit him in the hospital.

‘‘It really does show the warm side of Congress that very few people get to see,’’ Scalise said.

After speaking, Scalise cast his first vote since June — for a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and extend tax benefits to hurricane victims.

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His office said that, starting Thursday, Scalise ‘‘will be resuming his work at the Capitol, while also completing an extended period of outpatient rehabilitation over the coming months.’’

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, introduced Scalise, asking whether the ‘‘gentleman from Louisiana’’ wished to be recognized.

‘‘Our prayers have been answered,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘American is grateful for this moment.’’

The return of Scalise, a back-slapper who counts close friends in both parties, was a cause for relief and celebration.

‘‘He’s been wanting to come back forever,’’ said Representative Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican who joined a crowd waiting in the National Statuary Hall for Scalise to make his way to the chamber. ‘‘You can’t keep a good man down.’’

Scalise thanked his colleagues for the ‘‘outpouring of love’’ from both sides of the aisle, and said he did not dwell on the shooter or the reasons he opened fire. ‘‘To me, all I remember are the thousands of acts of kindness and love and warmth that come out of this,’’ he said.

Scalise also gave his first media interview since the shooting, telling CBS’s ‘‘60 Minutes’’ that the bullet did serious damage when it struck him in the hip at the Alexandria, Va., ballpark.

‘‘My femur was shattered,’’ he told correspondent Norah O’Donnell, according to excerpts of the interview released Thursday by CBS News. ‘‘The hip and pelvis had serious damage where the bullet went through and, you know, did some damage to areas that had to be shored up with steel plates. And then they did a phenomenal job of rebuilding — you know, kind of the rebuilding Humpty Dumpty. I mean, there were, there was a lot of damage inside that had to get fixed.’’