(Updated 7 a.m. Thursday) Connecticut’s Congressional delegation joined other Democratic representatives Wednesday in a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in an effort to force a vote on gun control legislation.
The sit-in was led by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who said it is sometimes necessary to “dramatize the need for action.” He said sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary and make a path where there was no path.
“We have lost hundreds of thousands of people to gun violence,” Lewis said. “. . . And what has this body done? Not one thing.”
“Newtown, Aurora, Charleston, Orlando. What is the tipping point?” Lewis asked in his remarks prior to the sit-in, which began around 11:25 a.m. Wednesday.
Almost 16 hours into the protest Republicans who control the chamber convened to take votes on Zika virus funding and then adjourned the House until July 5 amid the Democratic protest. Democrats, who had taken to social media to both stream the protest and get their message to the public, vowed to continue their fight for a vote on a bill to expand background checks and ensure individuals on a no-fly list are unable to purchase firearms.
As of 7:30 a.m. Thursday more than a dozen Democrats were still in the well of the House talking about the victims of gun violence in their districts. The protest has swelled from about 40 Democratic lawmakers to about 170, but was back down to more than a dozen as the occupation of the House floor continued into Thursday morning. The protest was orchestrated by Lewis and Rep. John B. Larson, D-1.
Larson said the “soul of the nation cries out for a vote.” He said they are staging a sit in to try to get a vote on common sense gun measures.
“Give us a vote,” Lewis insisted. “We came here to do our jobs. We came here to work.”
He told his colleagues, “We have to occupy the floor of the House until there is action.”
Earlier in the day when the protest began, Deputy Speaker Daniel Webster, R-Florida, adjourned as soon as time had expired for members to make their remarks and the C-SPAN cameras cut out as members remained on the floor in the well of the House.
C-SPAN explained that they are unable to broadcast the floor of the U.S. House when they are not in session because the cable feed they receive cuts out. The feed is controlled by the House, which is currently run by Republicans.
The House gaveled back in, but the Speaker Pro Temp Ted Poe, R-Texas, recessed “subject to the call of the chair” because the House was “not in order.” He was not able to get the Democrats staging the sit-in to leave the well of the House.
By late afternoon, C-SPAN was airing the Periscope of Rep. Scott Peters, D-California. As the sit-in continued Democratic lawmakers and their staff were encouraged to continue to bring batteries to Peters so that his phone continued to stream the sit-in. Members in the House were using social media to continue their protest and get their message out and crowds were gathering outside the Capitol and inside the gallery.
Larson was in charge of maintaining a list of speakers as the crowd on the House floor grew.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, tweeted that Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal were with them in solidarity on the floor of the House.
The House protest comes a week after Murphy’s 15-hour filibuster in the U.S. Senate following the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Orlando.
Larson said that Murphy started a movement with his filibuster last week, and the House is trying to continue the momentum it created.
Murphy was able to get a vote on his bill to close the “gun show loophole” by requiring every gun purchaser undergo a background check and expand the database, but the vote fell short of the support it needed to get brought up for a debate.
Himes said they will hold the floor as long as they can while they continue to push for a vote to expand background checks and close the terror gap.
“These measures have overwhelming support from the American public and it is morally indefensible for Congress to deny them a vote,” Himes added.
Lewis said they will continue to occupy the well of the House until they can get a vote.
“Like trees planted by the rivers of water. We shall not be moved,” Lewis told MSNBC.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called the sit-in a “publicity stunt,” during an interview earlier in the day with Wolf Blitzer of CNN.
“This bill was already defeated in the Senate,” Ryan said. “…this is not a way to bring up legislation.” He said they’re not trying to come up with a solution to the problem, they’re just “trying to get attention.”
According House staffers, Ryan has the authority to enforce order and decorum by having the Sergeant at Arms remove members who disrupt the House. Instead, Republicans entered the chamber around 3:15 a.m. Thursday and adjourned the session until July 5.