WASHINGTON — After 25 hours occupying the well of the House chamber, Democrats decided to go home and continue their push for a vote on gun-control measures when Congress returns July 5.
But House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was not in the mood for deals after what he called a “stunt,” noting that the legislation in question didn’t even pass out of committee.
“We’re going to continue to push, to pull, to stand up, and, if necessary, to sit down,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who started the sit-in on Wednesday, told reporters and supporters outside of the Capitol today. “So don’t give up, don’t give in, keep the faith, keep your eyes on the prize.”
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was standing next to Lewis, told reporters at a separate news conference that members of her party would huddle and figure out the course forward over the Independence Day break.
“We’ll be meeting to determine how we go forward. But we’re still here… We cannot stop until we get a bill, until a law is passed. This isn’t about politics. It’s not about elections. It’s not about campaigns. It’s about the safety of the American people,” she said.
Pelosi added she’s “watching carefully what’s happening on the Senate side now.”
The compromise bill on blocking gun sales to people on watch lists drafted by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) survived a test vote in the upper chamber today with 52 senators in favor of the bill. But while it remains alive, the legislation doesn’t have the 60 votes needed to pass future tests.
Pelosi lauded her party for being “very, shall we say, democratic with a small ‘d,’ as well as the big ‘D’ group, and members will decide what form, what manifestation of opposition to the status quo and positive initiatives as we go home.”
“The efforts yesterday, again inspired by John Lewis, orchestrated by some of our members, is a reflection of the frustration that they have had, and the complete insistence that we cannot go through another moment of silence without taking action,” Pelosi continued.
“A moment of silence just left there is a moment of denial, of the need to do something more. So I think that you will see more spontaneity as to the form things will take.”
She acknowledged that the speaker “has awesome power” in terms of “control of the lights, the heat.”
“It was freezing in there last night. It was freezing. People were starting with sweaters and then blankets, and then, I think we were practically having rugs because it was freezing in there. That was one way, but we would not be deterred,” Pelosi added.
Ryan said at his own press conference that he didn’t want to “dwell on the decorum of the House here today, other than to say we are not going to allow stunts like this to stop us from carrying out the people’s business.”
“Why do I call this a stunt? Well, because it is one. Let’s just be honest here. Here are some facts. Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee considered its bill for homeland security spending. At the committee, Democrats offered in committee an amendment offering the gun measure they say they want. That amendment failed on a bipartisan basis,” Ryan said. “So just yesterday, the Democrats offered this gun measure they claim they want, and it failed on a bipartisan basis in committee. There was a vote. It was in the committee through regular order, and the vote failed. That’s a fact they didn’t want to talk about.”
“Here’s another one. If Democrats want to vote for a bill on the floor, there’s a way to get one. It just takes 218 signatures on a petition and then they can have a vote. It is that simple. That’s how the House works. It’s a well-known process. But they’re not doing that. They are not trying to actually get this done through regular order. No, instead they’re staging protests. They’re trying to get on TV. They’re sending out fund- raising solicitations.”
Ryan added that leaders are “reviewing everything right now, as to what happened and how to make sure that we can bring order to this chaos.”
“This is the people’s house, this is Congress, the House of Representatives, the oldest democracy in the world and they’re descending it into chaos,” he said. “This isn’t a proud moment for democracy or for the people who staged these stunts.”
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 23, 2016