In the News

Dozens of House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor Wednesday in protest of the GOP leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on a gun control measure following the Orlando massacre.

Led by Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon, and John Larson (D-Conn.), more than 40 Democrats walked into the chamber just before noon and pledged to “occupy” the House floor until GOP leadership allowed a vote. In one hour, their numbers more than tripled — even as Republicans recessed the House, turning off C-SPAN cameras and the video feed to the public.

Democrats have tried numerous times over the past week to force a vote on a “no fly, no buy” bill, which would bar terror suspects on the “no-fly” list from purchasing guns. The sit-in represented a sharp escalation in the fight, however, putting political pressure on Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to allow a roll-call vote on the policy issue that’s gotten the most traction following the Florida shooting. Democrats countered the TV camera blackout by streaming everything on their cellphones, which ended up on C-SPAN anyway.

But by early afternoon, there were no signs that Republicans would acquiesce to the Democrats’ demands for a vote. Republicans believe that if they give in now, it would encourage more such actions by Democrats, and one GOP leadership aide called the move a “Democrat publicity stunt.”

But Democrats claim they will stay on the floor as long as it takes. They want Ryan to cancel the mid-July recess to take up their proposal.

“We have been too quiet for too long,” Lewis said. “There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.

“How many more mothers? How many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something?” Lewis continued, his voice rising in intensity. “Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our job. We came here to work.”

A short while later, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the House “is drenched in blood and the only way we can cleanse it is if the speaker of the House allows us to vote on this legislation.

“Every day that we don’t commit to a vote, the blood is on the leadership of this House,” Nadler said.

But Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican, slammed the sit-in, tweeting that “calling this a sit-in is a disgrace to Woolworth’s. They sat in for rights. Dems are “sitting in” to “strip them away.”





The protest seemed to catch Republicans off guard. As another House Democrat prepared to speak after Lewis, the GOP lawmaker presiding over the chamber suddenly declared the House was in recess and shut off microphones. The cameras followed since, technically, the House was not in session.

Democrats, including Reps. Joe Crowley of New York, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Alcee Hastings of Florida, meanwhile, sat down on the floor or stood by the front podium. They began reading the names of those who died in the June 12 shooting at a Florida nightclub that left 49 dead and 53 wounded.

“No bill, no break,” they chanted, repeating recent demands that House GOP leaders cancel the upcoming House recess until they vote on gun control.

Members took turns speaking, backed up by chants and applause.

“We’ve had it. We’re not going to watch any more people in this country get slaughtered and do nothing!” Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) yelled during the protest.

“Break the shackles!” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said at another point.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) taunted Republicans, saying they “don’t have the guts to stand up to the gun lobby.”

Lawmakers tweeted their protest, posting pictures online, and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) started streaming the sit-in live on the Periscope app.

As the number of Democrats on the floor grew, staffers brought in cases of bottled water, Coca-Cola and Diet Coke to the Democratic cloakroom. One Democratic member said the protest could stretch through the evening and possibly into Thursday.

s lost, those families destroyed, those communities that have been broken because of our refusal to speak up, stand up and support just laws that will ensure safety and security,” Clyburn said.

Just Tuesday, when Clyburn unsuccessfully tried to force a vote on the same issue during a House vote, Republicans rejected his attempts.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who led the 15-hour filibuster in the Senate last week, showed up to encourage Democrats. His filibuster had forced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold a series of votes on gun measures, though none cleared that chamber.

The Democrats cheered him, vowing to sit in the chamber until they forced a vote in their own chamber, too.

“I hope they stay in there for as long as it takes, through the day, through the night, until they get a vote,” Murphy said.

Republicans showed no signs of bowing to Democrats’ demand.

“The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said in a statement.

Some Democrats carried their protest outside, gathering on the Capitol steps to double down on their demands.

With the sun blazing, party leaders took turns speaking as rank-and-file Democrats and gun violence protesters stood behind them, some wearing “We are Orlando” shirts and others holding up pictures of gun violence victims.