House Democrats spent 24 hours conducting a sit-in on the floor of the House to demand that the Republican leadership call a vote on legislation to prevent people on the terror watch list from purchasing guns, and to require background checks before purchasing guns. But one of the protest’s most dramatic moments came less than halfway through, when Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP colleagues returned to the chamber to vote on an unrelated measure.
Around 10 p.m., Ryan called for order — and the C-SPAN cameras that remain off when the House is not in session turned back on. (The cameras were off for most of the evening, forcing Democrats to illegally broadcast the sit-in on the Periscope streaming app.)
The plan was to vote on a resolution to override President Obama’s veto on the repeal of the “fiduciary rule,” which requires financial advisors to act in the “best interest” of clients saving for retirement (rather than their own profits).
But as Ryan moved through the standard procedure for a vote — which failed to reach the threshold to repeal the presidential veto — Democrats chanted “No bill, no break!” and began to sing “We Shall Overcome” with altered lyrics, like “We shall pass a bill some day.”
Needless to say, the Speaker of the House was not pleased. At a press briefing, he called the sit-in a “stunt,” adding, “They’re staging protests. They’re trying to get on TV. They are sending fundraising solicitations.”
Around 3 a.m., Ryan and the Republican colleagues returned to pass a bill allocating $1.1 billion for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus (the Obama administration and Democrats have called for much more.) The gun measures, however, did not receive a vote, and they won’t at least until July 5, when the House returns to session.
But Rep. John Lewis, the Democratic congressman and civil rights icon who led the sit-in, is not planning on giving the GOP leadership an easy time then, either. As the sit-in ended, he tweeted, “We must never ever give up or give in. We must keep the faith. We must come back here on July 5 more determined than ever before.”
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