House Democrats blocked the House from doing its work Wednesday by staging a sit-in on the House floor to protest the lack of any votes on gun control legislation this week.
Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., gathered Democrats around him, and encouraged the symbolic protest shortly before noon, a time reserved for short speeches but no legislative work.
“We will occupy this floor!” Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., bellowed as Democrats sat on the floor.
“After the worst mass shooting in modern history, it’s time for Speaker Ryan to bring a bill to the floor,” said the office of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “House Democrats will continue to demand: no bill, no break.”
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C-SPAN cameras only showed some of the protest, as the cameras are controlled by the Republican majority, which gaveled the House out of session as the protest started.
But when the House tried to open again at noon for legislative work, Democrats continued to protest. Presiding officer Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, asked Democrats several times to return to regular order, to no avail.
Poe did preside over a prayer from the House chaplain, and the Pledge of Allegiance, but then found the House was “not in a state of order due to the presence of members in the well who are not recognized.”
“The House stands in recess subject to the call of the chair,” Poe said as he gaveled the session closed again:
Democrats said shortly after noon that their plan was to hold the floor for the entire day, or until Republicans relent and allow a vote.
Democrats complained that Republicans weren’t allowing the public to see what was happening. The GOP controls the cameras, and shut them off once official business is done, so the protest was not televised, meaning that people had to enter the chamber to watch.
“The Republican leadership in the House did not allow people to come into the gallery to see what was happening on the floor,” Pelosi said.
“This is unprecedented, unprecedented,” she said as other Democrats chanted “Shame!”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., told the Washington Examiner that Democrats could hold the House floor indefinitely by rotating groups of the 188-member caucus into the chamber and allowing others time to rest.
“There are 180 of us,” Gutierrez said as he walked to the door of the chamber. “I’m headed in there right now.” Gutierrez called the floor takeover “a step in the right direction for Democrats.”
The House Speaker has the authority to clear the floor if needed, and remove people physically if needed. But House leaders had no reply on what they might do when asked by the Washington Examiner.