Democrats Stage Sit-In on House Floor to Push for Gun Vote
House Democrats staged a sit-in on Wednesday morning in order to force a vote on gun control.
The Hill reports:
Democrats have been pressing for action on gun control before the House leaves at the end of this week for a planned recess.
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the veteran lawmaker who was brutally beaten by police in the 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Ala., began the sit-in by giving a speech while surrounded by his colleagues.
“We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the deaths in our nation,” he said. “Mr, Speaker, where is the heart of this body. Where is our soul?
“How many more mothers, how many more fathers have to share tears of grief before we decide to do anything?”
Shortly after Lewis spoke, the Democratic lawmakers sat down in the well of the House.
The House was then gaveled into recess, and the chamber’s C-SPAN cameras were turned off.
A spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that the chamber would be in recess as long as Democrats held up normal legislative business.
“The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong tweeted.
Democrats indicated that they will continue the sit-in until GOP leaders allow a vote on gun legislation.
“Members are intending to stay until some action is taken,” Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones said.
Just a week ago, Democrats took over the Senate floor to call attention to gun control.
The two Connecticut senators who led that effort, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, were on hand for the House sit-in on Wednesday.
At just before noon, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) gaveled the House back into session and led members through a morning prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Democratic members on the floor stood for the pledge and prayer, but would not leave the well of the House after those ceremonies.
“The House is not in a state of order due to the presence of members in the well,” Poe said before asking them to leave.
When he was ignored, he gaveled the House back into recess and the cameras again went dark. Poe’s call for order was barely audible in the chamber over the Democrats’ chants of “no bill, no break!”
“We’d love to show you what’s happening on the House right now but those cameras are controlled by the House,” C-SPAN’s anchor said, shortly after Poe started the recess.
Afterward, Assistant House Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) led Democrats in a prayer for victims of gun violence.
“Let’s have a real prayer!” shouted Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
The sit-in comes just more than a week after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, in which a gunman who pledged support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
Around the same time Democrats began their House floor sit-in on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee rejected a proposal to prevent terror suspects from buying guns.
Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security spending bill that reflects a measure authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Feinstein’s bill, which was rejected by the Senate on Monday, would grant the attorney general authority to block a gun sale if there is “reasonable belief” that the firearm would be used for terrorism. The measure would further require a procedure so that the Justice Department would be notified if a person investigated for terrorism in the last five years tries to buy a gun.
The committee defeated Lowey’s amendment in a party-line vote.
The Senate on Monday night rejected four bills dealing with gun control. A separate bipartisan measure may come up for a vote later this week.
Photos of the sit-in were quickly shared on Twitter by lawmakers and their aides.
— Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) June 22, 2016
— Rep Donna F Edwards (@repdonnaedwards) June 22, 2016
— The Hill (@thehill) June 22, 2016
John Lewis staging a sit-in Nashville in the 1960s v John Lewis staging a sit-in in Washington in 2016 pic.twitter.com/w2EoTG7fWj
— georgia (@normanisreyes) June 22, 2016
A number of Democratic senators crossed the Capitol to join in the protest.
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) June 22, 2016
In addition to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) were among the senators who took part in the sit-in.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who met with House Democrats on Capitol Hill earlier on Wednesday, praised the protest on Twitter, as did former President Bill Clinton and White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
This is what real leadership looks like. https://t.co/4Nh6QpqSxL
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 22, 2016
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) June 22, 2016
This is leadership. https://t.co/8y5fYqRFGU
— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) June 22, 2016
Photo credit: IVN.