House Democrats led by Civil Rights veteran Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, are in the midst of a sit-in on the chamber floor to try and force a vote on gun control. "Now is the time for us to find a way to dramatize it, to make it real," Lewis said. "We have to occupy the floor of the House until there is action." Then Lewis and roughly 40 House Democrats sat. They stood briefly to say the Pledge of Allegiance as a couple dozen visitors in the gallery looked on.
When the Senate took up several gun reforms this week, there was a nagging concern hanging over the debate: even if one of these measures passed, the Republican-led House has made clear that the lower chamber will not consider any new firearm restrictions. It was a moot point -- the Senate measures were defeated -- but the fact that no votes are even possible in the House is deeply discouraging to reformers.
June 22, 201602:21
There are some pretty dramatic photos available, but Americans hoping to see the dramatic protest on C-SPAN were disappointed. Though House proceedings are normally televised, NBC's report added that this protest was not shown because the House had not formally been gaveled into session.
At around 11:30 a.m. (ET), Lewis delivered remarks, explaining, "We have lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people to gun violence.... What has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing." The sit-in began soon after.
Roll Call reported, "At about noon, Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas returned to gavel in the House.... Poe said he found that the House was not in a state of order due to the presence of members in the well who were not recognized. He asked members to leave the well. After that, he declared the House in recess subject to the call of the chair. "
Keep in mind, the Democrats participating in this protest aren't asking the House to pass anything, but rather, they want a debate and a vote on possible reforms.
Congress has only scheduled 11 days of work before both chambers take a very long summer break -- lawmakers are off from July 15 to Sept. 6 -- and House Dems are asking for some of that time to be devoted to a debate over curtailing gun violence.
Those participating in the sit-in chanted the phrase, "No Bill, No Break."
It's unlikely the protest will succeed, but it's extremely rare to see this kind of disruption on a congressional floor. If Democrats' intended to do something that would capture attention and raise eyebrows, they succeeded.