In an unprecedented move Wednesday, dozens of Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia staged a sit-in on the House floor in protest of Republicans opting out of bringing a vote the floor on a measure calling for stronger background check on those purchasing fire arms.
The bill, dubbed “no fly, no buy,” would allow the attorney general to stop a prospective buyer on the FBI’s terror watch list from purchasing a weapon “if there is a reasonable belief that the weapon would be used in connection with terrorism.” An identical amendment was shot down in the upper chamber Monday.
Lawmakers in the lower chamber said the protest was necessary since they don’t have the option to filibuster as they do in the Senate. The push to move on the legislation comes in the wake of a terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando killing 49 and injuring more on June 12.
Republicans said, while neither party wants terrorists to gain access to guns, the bill denies Americans a constitutional right without due process of law.
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio went as far as alleging Republicans are soft on terrorism.
New Jersey Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell told The Daily Caller News Foundation said the protest was not planned far in advance, cut the group is committed to fighting for a vote.
“We are orderly on the floor, if it disrupted today, two or three votes, then it disrupted the day,” he said. “This is more important to me.”
Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore said the protest could go all night and similar demonstrations are not out of the question in the future.
“I grew up in the ’60s and when things ain’t right, it can last forever,” she told TheDCNF. “Ya know what, it’s work – it’s what democracy looks like, it’s not always neat and pretty.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to turn on the microphones and the cameras, as it was not being live-broadcast. Some Democratic members did, however, stream video on social media despite it being against chamber rules.
“Regarding the camera footage of the House floor: All members of the House of Representatives voted on the rules governing floor proceedings at the beginning of the Congress,” a House GOP aide said in an email. “Cameras are only on when the House is in session. This rule of the House is being enforced, as it has been since TV cameras were first installed in the House.”
In 2008, House Democrats turned the lights and microphones off on Republicans while they were discussing gas prices on the floor – arguing a bill should be brought to the floor ahead of recess.
A member of the Capitol police told TheDCNF Ryan could call on the Sergeant at Arms complaining of a disruption and have Democratic members partaking in the protest escorted out.
“The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told TheDCNF in an email.
A measure was introduced by Republican Rep. Dave Jolly Tuesday designed to prevent someone on the watch list from attaining a firearm, but requires the purchaser be given notice within 10 days or rejection, giving them the opportunity to have hearing within 30 days before a federal judge.
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