In a dramatic turn of events, and very symbolic of America's dysfunctional political system today in which all decisions have been punted to the Fed for the past seven years, Democrats took the floor of the House and staged a sit-in just before Noon on Wednesday. The Democrats were demanding that Republican leadership schedule votes on gun control bills, and according to Politico, Republicans almost immediately recessed the House and turned off the chamber video cameras. That only added fuel to the fire, and the sit-in went on all day and has continued into the early hours Thursday morning.
As Politico explains:
The tumultuous day started just before noon when Democrats took over the chamber. Republicans almost immediately recessed the House and turned off the chamber video cameras. But that only drew more attention to the sit-in, as lawmakers whipped out their own phones and started livestreaming their efforts online, which was in turn broadcast by C-SPAN. The protest soon became the story of the day, leading news websites across the nation.
House Republicans earlier in the day signaled they weren't interested in bringing in security to escort Democrats out, but they also weren't willing to give them the votes they wanted.
If Ryan thought a few hours on the House floor would assuage the left, he was mistaken. The Wisconsin Republican entered the chamber at 10 p.m. to break up the protest by moving to a vote on unrelated legislation to override an Obama administration rule. Pandemonium ensued, a scene not witnessed on the House floor in years, if ever.
But as Ryan sought to restore order in the chamber, Democrats angrily chanted "No bill, no break!" — a reference to the upcoming July recess they want to postpone until a vote on gun control is held.
Earlier in the day, Ryan dismissed the Democratic protest as "nothing more than a publicity stunt," noting that the proposal at issue was recently defeated in the Senate. "We're not going to take away a citizen's constitutional rights without due process," the speaker told CNN.
Speaker Ryan sought to quell the demonstration by having lawmakers vote at 2:30am on several bills, including one to combat the Zika virus. As Politico reports, the clash on the floor during the vote on the unrelated bill was ugly, and a scene even longtime Hill observers have said they've never witnessed before.
The clash on the floor during the vote on the unrelated bill was ugly, a scene even longtime Hill observers have said they've never witnessed before.
Democrats who had been in the chamber all day for the protest moaned when the House stenographer came back into the chamber to take her spot, in preparation for the vote. Several dozen Democrats sat in front of the House podium to fill the area where members occasionally cast votes.
A few minutes before the vote started, as Ryan took to the podium and slammed his wooden gavel, Democrats started chanting. Guests watching from the gallery inside joined in, pumped their fists in the air and clapping. A few Republicans, entering the chamber for the vote, stood for several moments to take in the surreal scene.
Lawmakers held up signs with the names of victims of gun violence, creating a sea of stark white papers with bold black letters waiving on the House floor. Other members held pictures of victims and signs that said “Disarm Hate” printed on a rainbow background.
Just before the vote, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) recited a poem on the floor about gun violence.
Ryan tried to speak over the crowd to call the vote, but no one in the chamber could hear him. Police quieted the public sitting in the gallery, in accordance with House rules that bar observers from cheering, but Democratic shouts still drowned out Ryan.
Despite the inability to hear, Ryan called the vote. And Republicans started voting.
Democrats were voting using paper cards — as opposed to the electronic vote House members normally employ — in an attempt to slow down the vote.
Republicans mostly kept to their side of the room, some standing to watch while others sat and chatted among themselves.
Throughout the vote, Democrats crowded the well, chanting and holding up the names of gun violence victims.
“Give them a vote,” Democrats shouted, shaking their papers with victims’ names.
Earlier, as Ryan stepped off the dais at the beginning of the vote, Democrats booed the speaker and shouted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" at him.
And Democrats at one point during the same series sang "We Shall Overcome," echoing a crowd that sang the civil rights hymn hours earlier outside the Capitol.
The House adjourned for the Independence Day recess shortly after Republicans voted to pass an emergency funding package to combat the Zika virus after 3am Thursday morning. According to The Hill, the House will have a pro forma session at 9am Friday but won't return for legislative votes until Tuesday July 5.
More than two dozen Democrats remained on the floor after the House adjourned at 3:14am, including several who wrapped themselves in blankets The Hill reports.
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The sit-in protest continues, here is a live feed:
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Here are some scenes from the day:
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Democrats singing We Shall Overcome on the House Floor
Paul Ryan tries to restore order in the House as chants of "No Bill, No Break" break out