House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday reacted to the Democratic sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives over gun control by saying: “I don’t think this should be a very proud moment for democracy or the people who staged these stunts.”
In his weekly press conference at the Capitol, Ryan said: “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.”The Wisconsin Republican did not rule out punishing those involved for violating the body’s rules. “We’re reviewing everything right now as to what happened and how to make sure we can bring order to this chaos,” Ryan said.
Ryan repeatedly referred to the sit-in, led by Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, as a political “stunt” that ignored the political reality that the gun measures being pushed don’t have adequate support in either body of Congress.
“I’m not going 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,” Ryan said. “Why do I call this a stunt? Well, because it is one.”
Ryan pointed out that their gun control measure failed to pass in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. “So just yesterday, the Democrats offered this gun measure they claim they want, and it failed on a bipartisan basis in committee,” he said.
“There was a vote,” Ryan said. “It was in the committee, through regular order, and the vote failed. That’s a fact they didn’t want to talk about.”
Ryan also said the rules of the body would allow Democrats to bring gun control measures to a vote in the House if they had enough support. “If Democrats want a vote for a bill on the floor, there is a way to get one,” he said. “It just takes 218 signatures on a petition, and 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,” he said. “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.”
Added Ryan: “Why is it that this bill failed on a bipartisan basis in committee and this bill failed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate? Because in this country we do not take away people’s constitutional rights without due process.”
Ryan also criticized Democrats for fundraising during the sit-in, holding up printed screen shots of solicitations during his press conference. “If this is not a political stunt, then why are they trying to raise money off of this — off of a tragedy?”
The speaker argued Congress should be spending time on terrorism. “Our focus needs to be on confronting radical extremism. Terrorism is the issue. Let me say it again — terrorism is the issue. And defeating terrorism is our focus here in the House.”
“So let me be really clear: we are not going take away the constitutional rights of law abiding Americans. And we’re not going to allow publicity stunts to stop us from doing our job,” he said.