U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, paid tribute to Atlanta Braves favorite Fred McGriff wearing the former Braves’ No. 27 uniform. Ossoff flashed a good glove and scampered around the bases at the Congressional Baseball Game Wednesday night. (Screenshot from CSPAN)
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Wednesday night were the victors in an annual charity baseball game against Democrats, 13-12, even as a bitterly divided Congress struggles to pass major legislation this week.
There were some feel-good moments, like when President Joe Biden passed out ice cream bars in the dugouts and Republican Rep. Greg Steube of Florida powered an impressive home run into the stands. Biden was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame.
But it was hard to ignore that many of the Republicans who stepped up to bat—including Steube—also voted against certifying Biden as the winner in the 2020 presidential elections, hours after a mob of pro-Trump supporters launched an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Five people, including one Capitol Police officer, died that day. Four officers who responded to the insurrection have died by suicide.
One particularly polarizing Republican was not at Wednesday night’s match-up, though. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who was stripped of her committee seats two months into her freshman term, had been slated to join the GOP team.
Greene said in a statement that she did not attend the congressional game because “I don’t feel like I can play baseball with Democrats or Republicans who want to vote for an infrastructure bill that’s phase one of the Green New Deal.”
Another election denier, Rep. Lauren Boebert, (R-Colo.), did attend, and heckled Democrats from the stands.
“They’re stealing (bases) like they stole the election,” she shouted. Boebert hopped the fence and charged onto the field to join Republicans as they celebrated their win.
Other Republicans who voted against verifying the electoral college votes for Arizona or Pennsylvania and were on the GOP baseball roster included Reps. Jack Bergman and Lisa McClain of Michigan; Tim Burchett and Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee; Kat Cammack of Florida; Greene, Andrew Clyde and Barry Loudermilk of Georgia; Bill Johnson of Ohio; Greg Murphy of North Carolina; and Steve Scalise of Louisiana. The full rosters can be found here.
The Congressional Baseball Game is a 100-year-plus tradition, beginning in 1909, when Republicans and Democrats come together to play seven innings to raise money for various District of Columbia charities.
The games are typically an effort to show bipartisanship. But lawmakers are fighting over passage of Biden’s infrastructure package and $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan—the most ambitious funding of social programs since the New Deal— along with attempting to avoid a government shutdown that would begin at midnight Thursday without passage of a spending patch.
Biden’s visit was a surprise, and he stopped by to chat with both Democrats and Republicans in their respective dugouts.
Republicans in the crowd booed the president and chanted “let’s play ball,” as Biden talked with Democratic lawmakers. But once Biden made his way to the Republican side, the crowd was silent.
While the game was a loss for Democrats, many members took solace in selfies with the president.
“Tough loss but got to hang with this man,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, (D-Ariz.), wrote in a tweet where he shared a photo of him with Biden.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, was also in attendance, spending much of the time talking into her phone. Pelosi had met earlier in the day with Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about Biden’s Build Better Act they are attempting to pass.
Republicans dressed in solid red uniforms. Democrats were less unified, attired in a scattered patch of blue, white and red jerseys.
A few thousand spectators showed up to watch the game, but the crowd came nowhere close to filling up Nationals Park, which can hold more than 40,000 and is where D.C.’s professional baseball team, the Washington Nationals, play. Last year’s congressional game was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, tried to get the crowd to chant.
“It’s gonna be ‘Go GOP’,” she said.
Democrats were up to bat first. Some lawmakers on the field have a background in sports, such as Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat who played third base for the South London Pirates in the British Baseball Federation while he attended the London School of Economics.
He also played ultimate Frisbee in high school.
However, Ossoff was struck out his first time up to bat by Steube, who was pitching. Ossoff’s second time up to bat, he managed to make it all the way to home plate.
While Democrats were ahead of Republicans early in the game, Republicans quickly caught up with two back-to-back home runs by Reps. Blake Moore of Utah and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio.
The wins sent Republicans jumping up and down in the dugout and elicited screams and cheers from their fans in the stands.
Democrats and Republicans remained tied for a big portion of the game at 11-11, but Republicans managed to pull through.
After the game, Fleischmann said that “everything hurts,” pointing up and down his body, but added that “it was worth it” as Republicans won.
Charities that will benefit from Wednesday’s game include the Washington Literary Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, the Washington National Philanthropies and the U.S. Capitol Police Memorial Fund, which was added after the 2017 Republican practice shooting where Scalise was shot. A lobbyist, legislative aide and two Capitol Police officers were shot as well.
The Congressional Baseball Fund’s 2019 annual revenue was $1 million, according to its tax records.
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