Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Democrats Occupy House Floor to Compel Votes on Gun Bills

Lawmakers were reprimanded by the House Sergeant at Arms for taking photos in the chamber, which is prohibited under House rules.


Scores of representatives stage a sit-in; House forced into recess


Kristina Peterson and

Natalie Andrews

Updated June 22, 2016 
5:07 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—House Democrats wrested control of the chamber Wednesday to demand votes on new gun curbs in a protest fashioned by tactics of civil-rights demonstrations from the last century and new technologies made possible in this one.

Led by civil-rights champion Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), at least 170 House Democrats staged a “sit-in,” occupying the floor of the House chamber in an effort to extract votes from Republican leaders on bills that would expand background checks for guns and prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms.

“There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet,” said Mr. Lewis, shortly before a group of House Democrats took the rare step of sitting on the chamber’s floor in protest. “This is the time.”

A photo shot and tweeted from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. House Rep. Katherine Clark shows Democratic members of the House staging a sit-in on the “to demand action on common sense gun legislation” on Wednesday.PHOTO: U.S. REP. KATHERINE CLARK/REUTERS

Fueled by lawmakers’ tweets and other social-media messages, the House demonstration quickly caught national attention, drawing tweets of praise from Democratic presidential nomineeHillary Clinton and PresidentBarack Obama. For the first time since the June 12 Orlando shooting, which left 49 people dead and dozens wounded, the House dominated the debate over new gun restrictions previously centered in the Senate.

Senate Democrats left their offices to join the House lawmakers accumulating on the chamber’s floor. With the House forced into recess and its cameras and microphones turned off, lawmakers had to shout to be heard as they took turns reading the names of gun-violence victims, chanting “no bill, no break” and calling on Republican leaders to schedule a vote before the chamber’s recess next week.

Republican leaders said they were forced to put the House in recess, delaying planned votes, while Democrats were flouting the chamber’s rules.

“The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair,” said AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.)

Republican leaders were reluctant to schedule the gun votes in response to the sit-in, not wanting to reward the Democrats’ behavior, Republican aides said.

The Democratic protest wasn’t the first time the minority party had taken over the House’s floor, but new technology tools helped broaden its reach. For the first time, C-Span, the cable network that shows congressional proceedings, streamed a Periscope feed of the House floor, provided by Rep. Scott Peters (D., Calif.). Periscope is a video live-streaming platform owned by Twitter.

“The editorial decision is we cover Congress, and if a member is showing what is happening in Congress, that’s part of our coverage,” said Howard Mortman, a spokesman for C-Span. The network also used Facebook video from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D., Texas.)

Lawmakers were reprimanded by the House Sergeant at Arms for taking photos in the chamber, which is prohibited under House rules.

House Democrats said they wanted to vote on legislation to expand background checks for all commercial gun sales. Currently only federally licensed dealers are required to perform background checks. Democratic legislation that would have expanded background checks to all sales at gun shows and online stalled in the Senate on Monday night.

Democrats are also pushing in the House to vote on a measure aimed at preventing suspected terrorists from being able to buy a firearm. Two competing partisan measures aimed at blocking individuals on the “no-fly list” and other government watch lists were also defeated in the Senate on Monday, but senators led by Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) were still working Wednesday on a compromise measure.

The bipartisan bill steadily picked up support Wednesday, but it wasn't clear whether it would secure the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles. Although the measure drew the opposition of the National Rifle Association Tuesday, several Republicans up for re-election this year in swing states said they would vote for Ms. Collins’s bill, including Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

“Senator Kirk supports the Collins’ bipartisan compromise to keep guns away from suspected terrorists,” his spokeswoman Sarah Dolan said Wednesday. “He believes partisan standoffs are irrelevant to the safety of Americans.”

Whether to support Ms. Collins’s bill is a difficult decision for liberal Democrats who had hoped to see the Senate put in place much tougher gun curbs.

“I’m concerned that it’s just not enough and that we will claim credit for having solved this problem when in fact we’ve addressed a minuscule portion of the problem,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) said Wednesday, noting he was still deciding how to vote on the measure.

Ms. Collins’s bill would ban sales of guns to terrorism suspects who appear on either the government’s no-fly list, or on a “selectee list” that requires additional screening at airports, a narrower population than Democrats had proposed in their legislation. Federal authorities would also be notified of any gun purchases by anyone on the watch lists over the prior five years, allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to put the person under surveillance.

Republicans want to make sure that the ban doesn’t infringe on the ability of law-abiding citizens who might have been mistakenly placed on the list to appeal that decision and buy a gun. Under the bill, Individuals could appeal the decision blocking the purchase of a firearm, and be awarded attorneys’ fees if successful.

“That bothers me that it takes place after the fact,” Sen. Deb Fischer (R., Neb.) said of the appeals process. Mrs. Fischer said she was still evaluating the bill.



1 comment:

Arsenio A. Lembert Jr. said...

You need not look too far to see that the Jesuits left their calling card at the scene of this incident.

By any means necessary.