The Slatest

Chaos on House Floor as Paul Ryan Brings House to Order During Democratic Sit-In

Paul Ryan tries to bring the House back in session, chaos ensues.

Screenshot C-SPAN

Update, 11:27 p.m.: We’re going to wrap up this evening’s live blog coverage of the Democrats sit-in and pick it up in the morning. It’s been a big day on the House floor and for Periscope’s brand recognition—which picked up 535 new downloads Wednesday. The biggest winner, however, was our nation’s loveable video bot C-SPAN and its subtle rebellion after years of getting treated like Skype.

Update, 11:05 p.m.: It’s been a day full of audibles, but this is the best. From earlier in the day (via the Chicago Tribune):

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, sat with other lawmakers on the chamber’s floor. She’d removed her leg prosthetics and secreted her smartphone inside one of them so the phone wouldn’t be taken away.

Update, 10:40 p.m.: The House is now back out of session, the Republicans held a quick pair of votes and gaveled the House back out of session around 10:30 p.m. Democrats are continuing on with their sit-in. The video feeds have again switched from C-SPAN back to Periscope and Facebook Live.

Update, 10:37 p.m.: Democrats singing “We Shall Overcome” (with slightly amended lyrics).

Update, 10:35 p.m.: Here’s a clip of Paul Ryan gaveling the House back into session around 10 p.m. to Democrats shouting in protest.

Update, 10:25 p.m.: Here’s a video taken from the House floor during Paul Ryan’s speech for some perspective on how unruly the floor is at the moment.

Update, 10:05 p.m.: Speaker Ryan has gaveled the House back to order and gave brief introductory remarks. Democrats are still crowded around the lectern and chanting “No bill, no break.”

Update, 9:51 p.m.: House Republicans are set to reconvene at 10 p.m. to vote on legislation unrelated to the sit-in. The reconvene will do a couple of things. It will likely end the Periscope feeds because phones are not allowed in the House when it is in session. It will, however, bring back the C-SPAN feed for the vote. This appears to be a thought-out move to disrupt the momentum of the Democrats, who have had the floor for hours now uninterrupted. We’ll see how the Democrats react during the vote.

Update, 8:50 p.m.: As we mentioned earlier, House Republicans effectively pulled the plug on the C-SPAN feed of the Democrats sit-in because the majority party functionally controls the cameras, which are only operational while the House is in session. The House is technically adjourned at the moment. C-SPAN, however, in a cheeky, slightly mutinous move, has picked up various Periscope live connections being fed by Democratic members and is broadcasting them live.

Update, 8:35 p.m.: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Speaker of the House Paul Ryan about the House Democrats sit-in and why he wouldn’t allow a vote. Ryan conceeded nothing. “This is nothing more than a publicity stunt,” Ryan said. “They’re trying to get you to ask me those questions for publicity’s sake. This isn’t trying to come up with a solution to a problem, this is trying to get attention.”

Update, 5:30 p.m.: Dozens of Democrats continued their sit-in on the House floor on Wednesday evening, roughly six hours after they entered the lower chamber to demand House Speaker Paul Ryan allow votes on new guns laws. From the sounds of it, the Rep. John Lewis-led group is planning to stick around at least through the night, and possibly even into the weekend.

The lower chamber recessed at the GOP’s request shortly after the protest began, which means the House has technically not been in session during the vast majority of the sit-in. As a result, the official cameras and floor microphones are off. Democrats, however, are doing their best to fill the communications gap by streaming video on both Periscope and Facebook, some of which C-SPAN—which has no control over the official feed—has broadcast live. You can watch Rep. Scott Peters’ feed here, and Rep. Don Beyer’s here.

Floor protests like this one are a rare sight in the Capitol. According to the Washington Post, this is only the second time since the 1970s that a party has staged a sit-in to demand a vote. A number of Senate Democrats have also visited the House floor to show their support today, including Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.

The House is currently scheduled to begin its July 4th holiday at the end of the day on Friday. Democrats, though, want to see action before the lawmakers head home and have taken to shouting, “No vote, no break” and “No bill, no break” every few minutes on the floor. They’re also urging Americans who support their cause to call Ryan’s office to make their voices heard.

Democrats are taking turns talking about the need for more gun control. The two proposals that they’ve given the most attention to are: one aimed at banning individuals on the FBI’s terrorism watch list from buying firearms, and a second that would expand background checks. As I’ve explained before, the latter is a worthy goal, but Democrats’ newfound focus on the terror list raises serious civil liberty concerns.


Original post, 12 p.m.: Rep. John Lewis and a group of his fellow Democrats took to the House floor late Wednesday morning to stage a sit-in and are vowing to stay for the foreseeable future. Their goal? Pressure Republican leadership to hold votes on gun control legislation, something they have not done in the wake of this month’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.

The lower chamber recessed shortly after Lewis and co. arrived on the floor at around 11:30 a.m. Republicans gaveled the lower chamber back into session shortly around noon as scheduled, but quickly recessed again when it became clear the Democrats were refusing to come to order. The House video cameras go dark when the chamber isn’t in session, but for now we have this Periscope video from Rep. Scott Peters. As you can see, Democrats are using the term sit-in loosely; many are standing as they take turns delivering remarks about the need for stricter gun laws. Update 3:44 p.m.: You can now watch a live-stream on Facebook from Rep. Mark Takano.

And here’s the official statement from House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer’s office:

Rep. John Lewis is leading a sit-in in the Well of the House Floor with dozens of House Democrats to demand that House Republicans allow a vote on legislation to address gun violence. After the worst mass shooting in modern history, it’s time for Speaker Ryan to bring a bill to the Floor. House Democrats will continue to demand: no bill, no break.

Senate Democrats pulled a similar stunt last week when Sen. Chris Murphy and several dozen of his colleagues commandeered the upper chamber with a nearly 15-hour filibuster to call for new gun laws. House members don’t have the option of standing on the floor until they can’t stand any longer—but it appears they believe sitting down is the next best thing.

This post has been updated with additional information as it became available.