Democrats end House sit-in after 25 hours of demanding votes on gun control – USA TODAY
Democratic lawmakers hoped to force a vote on gun legislature by occupying the House floor Wednesday.
WASHINGTON â House Democrats ended their sit-in on the floor of the House Thursday after more than 24-hours of chants and speeches advocating for stricter gun control measures.
Democrats vowed toÂ continue their effortsÂ when the House reconvenes after its July FourthÂ break.Â Democratic leaders, meanwhile,Â said lawmakers will return to their congressional districts and drum up more support.
âWeâre going to engage our constituents on this subject and we will not allow this body to ever feel as comfortable as they have felt in the past to silence our voices,ââ said South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader. âThe time will come on July 5 when we will return to theseÂ hallowed halls and…Â we will be operating under a new sense of purpose.ââ
Speaker Paul Ryan excoriated Democrats Thursday morning for disrupting the business of the House as the minority party’s sit-in to protestÂ inaction on gun violence moved into its second day.
Ryan told reporters Thursday that Democrats “are descending (the House) into chaos âÂ Â I don’t think this should be a very proud moment for democracy.”
Ryan forced several quick votes in the pre-dawn hours Thursday over loud Democratic objections. He said he would prefer to have allowed debate on those measures, particularly a funding bill to address the Zika virus, but Democrats were not interested in participatingÂ in real debate.
“We are not going to allow stunts like this to stop us from carrying out the people’s business,” he said. Asked if Democrats could be punished for breaking House rules banningÂ video onÂ the floor, Ryan said “We’re reviewing everything right now…to ensure we can bring order to this chaos.”
The extraordinary protest by more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers â led by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.,âbegan about 11 a.m. Wednesday, bringingÂ legislative business to a halt and triggeringÂ a chaotic, late-night showdown as the lawmakers demanded a vote on gun control legislation.
Democrats ended the sit-in with Lewis,Â a civil rights icon, surrounded by his colleagues as heÂ stood in the well of the chamber.
âWe must never ever give up or give in,ââ said Lewis. âWe must keep the faith and we must come back here on July 5th more determined than ever before.ââ
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., was among the original protest planners and was on the floor with Lewis when it began.
âThe strategy is to elevate the issue so that people actually will hold politicians accountable if their votes arenât responsive to what they want,â Yarmuth said Thursday. âWe made a big splash yesterday and weâll do some more when we come back in two weeks. Then hopefully weâll use that as one of the issues we talk about during the convention and when we get back here in September, we can push it again in the heat of the campaign when hopefully it will have that top-of-the-mind awareness.â
Republicans have calledÂ the sit-in a publicity stunt, and Ryan said ThursdayÂ it’s “nowÂ a fundraising scheme.”
Led by Ryan, GOP lawmakers regained control of the floor at 10 p.m. WednesdayÂ as DemocratsÂ shouted “Shame! Shame!” and sang “We Shall Overcome.”Â GOP lawmakers adjourned the House at 3 a.m. Thursday,Â following a 239-171 vote to approve $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus. The House is now out of session until July 5.
But DemocratsÂ still refused to leave the floor.
Thursday morning, the DemocratsÂ continued to break House rules by using cell phones to videotape fellow protesters making speechesÂ and to post commentsÂ on Twitter, all part of their effort to build public support for their cause. The House cameras were turned off, so C-SPAN for a second day was broadcasting video of the protest being live streamed from the floor by lawmakers using Facebook and Periscope.
“The House did not adjourn without a message being delivered,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. “That there is anÂ epidemic of gun violence in America and that we need to pass legislation to make America and Americans safer.”
During the sit-in, the Democrats took turns talking about gun violence and ticked off mass shootings inÂ Â Newtown, Conn.,Â Charleston, S.C., San Bernardino,Â Calif., andÂ Orlando, Fla., where Omar Mateen slaughtered 49 people and injured 53 others June 12.
Democratic senators joined the sit-in as did some former members of Congress.Â Rev. Jesse Jackson, who attended a press conference on voting rights, also stopped by the chamber Thursday.
âHow ironic, if not providential, that the sit-in in Congress today is about the right to vote,â Jackson said earlier.
Jackson said althoughÂ it was unlikely Republicans would schedule a vote on gun control legislation it wasÂ instructive for voters to see who was eager to vote, and who wasnât.
âThe whole world is discussing it now,â Jackson said. âThey do well in the dark, but when the lights come on, the rats run in the holes.â
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, attempted to gavel the House into order at noon Wednesday, but when the Democrats refused to quiet, he gaveled the House into recess instead.
On Monday, four gun-control measures failed to advance in the Senate, mostly along party lines.
Hope for any movement there on gun laws has shifted to a proposed compromise spearheaded byÂ Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would prevent people on no-fly lists from buying guns.Â The measure would affectÂ roughly 2,700 Americans, a smaller subset than those on terror watch lists covered by two of the bills rejected Monday. And it would allow individuals denied firearms to appeal in court.
Contributing: Erin Kelly, Mary Troyan and Donovan Slack