Although it’s still far from clear what caused today’s fatal incident on Capitol Hill–where a car chase and gunshots reportedly left one woman dead–federal lawmakers were placed in sudden lockdown and scrambling for answers.
Among them was New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, who said his first thought was that it related to the partial government shutdown currently gripping Washington.
“Listen, people are so frustrated and angry with members of Congress, particularly Republicans,” Mr. Rangel told Politicker today. “My first thought was that frustration ignited somebody already imbalanced and caused this type of thing.”
“There are people working for the government, not getting their paychecks, saying, ‘Why me?'” he added.
Mr. Rangel was speaking in a brief interview after his office let reporters know he was available to comment on his experience. (He also told supporters he was doing fine, announcing on Twitter that he was “at the Capitol when shooting happened but now am safely back at the office and OK”–along with a photo of him smiling and giving the “A-OK” sign.)
Mr. Rangel said that he was in the U.S. Capitol Building with his colleagues when the shooting happened. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, burst inside to inform fellow members of the news, putting on pause the ongoing clash between Democrats and Republicans.
“I was talking with my good friend Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. We are amazed that one of the newer members of Congress was not being recognized by the chair. The newer member was raising hell and we saw Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis rushing through the doors,” he said. “I went from door to door and they were all locked. I went into the cloakroom where there’s a door exit to the hallway,” he said. “That was locked. I said, ‘What the heck is going on?'”
Mr. Rangel was told members were locked in the Capitol Building until further notice. “Nothing was on the television at all. At some point they told us we could leave as long as we didn’t go outside. I went through the tunnels and got to my office,” he said.
Safe in his office, Mr. Rangel was also willing to offer his prediction on the shutdown.
The veteran Democrat predicted that Republicans, who are demanding concessions on Obamacare in exchange for funding the government, would soon fold because their supporters in the business community would expect it.
“This guy from Harlem really doesn’t believe that the business tycoons that have earned more money than their imagination can dream–when the country is not out of a recession and the middle class is sliding into poverty–if you think for one minute they’re gonna allow the goose that lays golden eggs just for them, that lays eggs for certain Republicans, [to go away], it’s not gonna happen,” he said.