A handful of Democrats attempted to use a brief housekeeping session of the House on Tuesday to draw more attention to the need for Congress to vote on gun control legislation.
“Mr. Speaker,” the six Democrats shouted, trying to get recognition for Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who was serving as the speaker pro tempore during the pro forma session. Typically no business is conducted during such sessions.
“No fly, no buy,” they yelled, referring to a bill they would like to see a vote on that would ban people on the no-fly terrorist watch list from being able to purchase guns.
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] Harris ignored the Democrats and the adjourned the House until July 1, when another pro forma session is expected.
“Shame,” Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., shouted after their attempts to get attention were rebuked.
The other five Democrats who participated in the protest were Reps. Eliot L. Engel of New York, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, Al Green of Texas, Doris Matsui of California and Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia.
The Democrats’ loud pleas for attention came just after the chaplain recited a prayer that read in part, “May the heat of political positions cool and the light of governing wisdom breakthrough.”
Tuesday’s mini protest follows the nearly 26-hour sit-in Democrats held last week on the House floor to call for a vote on two bills.
The six Democrats held a news conference after the pro forma session to say they won’t be silenced.
“We’re not going to just fold our tent and go home,” Engel said.
“We will keep this going until we get a vote,” Israel said.
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] On Wednesday, House Democrats will be home in their districts holding dozens of rallies, community round tables and press events as part of a national day of action against gun violence. The members are hoping that drawing more public attention to the issue will spur additional calls to Congress that will further pressure Republican leaders to acquiesce and hold a vote on gun control measures.
Specifically, Democrats are asking for a vote on the “no-fly, no-buy bill” and a legislation to expand background checks. A bipartisan version of the no-fly measure that includes a judicial appeals process for anyone denied a gun purchase could be a good start if it’s workable, Israel said.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan has called the sit-in a “stunt” but Democrats reject that characterization.
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] “What they had to say was from the heart,” Ruppersberger said of his colleagues, all but 11 of whom participated in the sit-in.
Democrats have followed normal procedures for trying to get a vote but nothing has worked, Green said, noting the sit-in was not their first option but the option that was left.
Still, Democrats remain open to a deal that would prevent future protests. “Negotiation is the best way out,” Green said.
Absent an agreement on a vote, Democrats continue to explore ways to speak out against gun violence. That may include another protest at the House pro forma session on Friday and yet-to-be determined moves when the full House returns on July 5.
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] Israel said that does not mean Democrats will resume the sit-in after the congressional recess.
“The minority has lots of tools in the toolbox,” Israel said. “Our rights have been really limited. And if Speaker Ryan insists on not giving the American people a vote on ‘no-fly, no-buy,’ then we will reach into that toolbox. And we will continue to avail ourselves of the tools. Some will be blunt. Some will be sharp. Some will be blunt and sharp.”
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