Dem and GOP baseball managers announce game will go on, call for change in national ‘mood’

WASHINGTON — Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Mike Doyle, D-Pa., announced the annual congressional baseball game would go on as scheduled Thursday night and called on their parties to unify to “change the mood in this country.”

Barton and Doyle, the managers of the Republican and Democratic baseball teams, also said they added a fund for the families of fallen police officers to the list of charities the baseball game will benefit, to recognize the U.S. Capitol Police officers who saved lives Wednesday.

Barton was on the field when a gunman shot and wounded Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Calif., and four others: a congressional staffer, a lobbyist and two police officers. Barton said it appeared the man identified as the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, was motivated by political animosity toward Republicans.

“Members are not looked at as people anymore, we’re kind of looked at — I don’t want to say as targets, but people think they can come to our town hall meetings and say just the most obnoxious things and think we won’t feel it personally,” Barton said. “Sometimes we do take it personally.”

“We need to take a step back,” Barton added.

Doyle, the manager of the Democratic baseball team, which was holding a practice elsewhere, agreed with Barton, saying lawmakers need to be more civil toward each other to “change the mood in this country, so people don’t get filled up with this kind of hatred.”

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Doyle announced at the press conference that he has extended an invitation to the Republican baseball team to dine at the Democratic Club — a first bipartisan step at changing the tone on the Hill. “I’m going to bring my food taster,” Barton joked, adding that he was going to order steak unless the Democrats were serving baloney sandwiches.

But the moments of levity were mixed with sadness and nostalgia for the past, when both members said Congress — and America — was a more civil and collegial place.

“It is a different climate today than it was in 1985, when I got elected,” Barton said, noting that lawmakers rush home to their districts each weekend and aren’t as social with each other outside of work these days.

“People get information out of a fire hydrant, much of it without a filter,” Doyle agreed. “People don’t look at each other eye to eye — they use two thumbs to insult each other.”

Barton became emotional when talking about his 10-year-old son, Jack, who was with him at baseball practice when the gunman opened fire. Jack hid under an SUV to escape the bullets. “When my son Jack was born, I was the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Jack got as many presents from the Democrats as he did from the Republicans,” Barton said. “He is an example of bipartisanship in himself.”

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