House Democrats Continue Gun Control Sit-In
Democrats in the House of Representatives continued their sit-in overnight and into Thursday morning, calling for votes on gun control — despite the fact that in the middle of the night, the GOP defied the protest to pass a Zika funding bill and then adjourn for July Fourth.
The sit-in began before noon on Wednesday, when House Democrats took to the floor. Chanting “No Bill, No Break” and waving posters with the names of victims of gun violence, the Democrats vowed to allow no House business to happen until there were votes on two gun control measures.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan quickly called the House into a recess and turned off the video cameras on the House floor, saying that is standard practice during a recess. (The AP notes there was a House protest in 2008, when Republican representatives occupied the floor and called for a vote to expand oil and gas drilling. During that protest, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi similarly called a recess and turned the cameras off.)
C-SPAN is relying on live video streaming on Periscope and Facebook to cover the sit-in. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is among those streaming the events.
There was a flurry of activity beginning late Wednesday and continuing into the wee hours Thursday, when Ryan brought the House back into session. GOP lawmakers defied the sit-in and shouts of “Shame, shame, shame” to hold a vote on a Zika funding bill, passing it without debate. The Republican representatives, who control the House, then adjourned the body for the July 4 holiday.
But some Democrats remained.
“Just because they cut and run in the dark of night, just because they have left doesn’t mean we are taking no for an answer,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday morning, The Associated Press reports.
Yesterday Eyder explained how the sit-in — which has included lawmakers literally sitting on the floor of the House — began:
“The House is scheduled to break on Sunday, and Democrats are demanding a vote on two bills before they go: one that bars anyone on the no-fly list from buying a firearm and another that broadens background checks for firearm purchases. …
“Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, announced the sit-in earlier [Wednesday] morning.
“ ‘We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence — tiny little children, babies, students and teachers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, friends and neighbors — and what has this body done?’ Lewis said, flanked by fellow Democrats. ‘Mr. Speaker, nothing. Not one thing.’ “
Lewis is no stranger to sit-ins. He was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, chairing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, working as a Freedom Rider, marching to Selma and, of course, joining sit-ins in the South in the ‘60s.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has called the Democrats’ sit-in a stunt and a gimmick.
“It’s not a gimmick for me,” Lewis says, according to the AP.
NPR’s Susan Davis describes the scene inside the chamber:
“Democrats sang ‘We Shall Overcome.’ … Senators from across the chamber came over. Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren brought them Dunkin’ Donuts.
“In the galleries around the chamber you had families of victims of gun violence, including a mother of one of the children that was killed in the Newtown shooting. Members held up posters of the names of people that had been killed in mass shootings on the floor. It was a very dramatic display.”
Crowds cheered from outside the Capitol, too.
A total of 168 House Democrats, out of 188 total, joined at least part of the sit-in, the AP reports. A number of senators joined them on the floor.
But after more than 20 hours of protest, the Democrats were “drained and dwindling,” the AP writes, “some draped in blankets and toting pillows.”
Some 16 lawmakers remained on the House floor as dawn broke Thursday, the AP says. But while diminished, they weren’t yet defeated.
Earlier in the night, as Republicans left for the holiday, Rep. Maxine Waters of California said she was ready to stay “until Hell freezes over,” the AP reports.
Originally published at www.npr.org on June 23, 2016.