In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, dozens of House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor on Wednesday to protest the majority ruling on gun measure controls.
Over the past week, Democrats have made numerous attempts to pass through a bill to ban those on the no fly list from purchasing guns. In this bill, any suspected terrorist would be barred from purchasing a gun. The sit in represents the strong demand for action from senate Democrats to pass gun legislation.
The sit in includes dozens of Democrats, led by John Larson (D-Conn.) and John Lewis (D-Ga). Even as Republicans recessed and blacked out all media and video feed, those occupying the floor utilized their cellphones to stream updates.
Chris Murphy (D-Conn) led the filibuster just last week and has been a voice of encouragement to the Democrats staging the sit in. The filibuster previously caused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a number of votes on the measures, although none passed the chamber.
“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.
Members of the protest took turns speaking out, tempered with applause and chanting. Many other Democratic senators later joined the protest including Minority Leader Harry Reid and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt).
“We have been too quiet for too long,” said John Lewis. “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. “Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our job. We came here to work.”
Rep. Kerry Nadler (D-N.Y) also spoke out, stating 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 stated.
Many Democrats took the protest outside, stationed on the Capitol steps. Showing solidarity and unity; some wearing “We are Orlando” shirts, others holding up signs or photos of victims.
Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican, criticized 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 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.
Back in 2008, Republicans had staged a similar protest. Those controlling the House turned off the cameras in the face of a push to expand gas and oil drilling. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent the House on its August recess.
While Democrats say they aren’t budging, it remains to be seen whether this will have any traction against Republicans. Congress remains gridlocked over gun control. As of now, the Republicans show no sign of flexibility but that may change the longer the sit in continues.
Update-Speaker Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans reclaimed control of the floor long enough Thursday morning to vote through a major spending bill. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California commended their stand as a “discussion heard around the world.”