Democrats effectively shut down U.S. House with ‘No Bill, No Break’ sit-in for gun control

WASHINGTON, June 22 (UPI) — Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, including some of the party’s leaders, set on a new path Wednesday to force the Republican-controlled chamber to take gun control more seriously in the wake of the Orlando shootings.

Called “No Bill, No Break,” the sit-in demonstration’s namesake alludes to the upcoming Fourth of July holiday recess for Congress, and seeks to spur GOP lawmakers into taking action before then.

The sit-in saw Democratic legislators plunk themselves down on the House floor, often chanting over commands from Republicans for order.

Led by civil rights advocate Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., more than two dozen Democrats began the protest shortly before noon. By mid-Wednesday, it was still going.

“Now is the time for us to find a way to dramatize it, to make it real,” Lewis said. “We have to occupy the floor of the House until there is action.”

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“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way,” he added. “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. This is the time. … We will be silent no more.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the party’s top-ranking House member, attended the sit-in for a time Wednesday.

“We cannot let another moment of silence happen on the House floor without acting,” she said.

“We will not leave the floor of this House until this Congress takes action!” Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., said.

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Some Democratic senators from Congress’ senior chamber even took part in the sit-in — including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The protest comes after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, unveiled compromise legislation Tuesday in a bid to get some form of gun-control legislation through the Senate.

Collins’ amendment would prohibit gun sales to people on two FBI terrorist watch lists: the “No Fly List,” which prohibits suspected terrorists from boarding planes heading to or from the United States or crossing U.S. airspace, and the “Selectee List,” which requires extra screening procedures.

There are approximately 109,000 people on those lists. The vast majority are foreigners, but the list is said to include around 2,700 Americans, according to Collins.

Unlike their Senate counterparts, House representatives are not permitted to filibuster — a stall tactic intended to direct action toward a particular issue — so instead they opted for the sit-in. Last week, Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., led a marathon filibuster that was also intended to spur gun control reform by a Republican Congress that continues to resist further regulations that would impact gun-owners and the powerful firearm industry.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said the chamber could not take care of normal business as long as the demonstration continued.

The only options Republicans have to stop the Democrats’ sit-in are to give in and vote on gun control legislation — or command the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms to remove the protesting lawmakers. The latter, though, was reportedly viewed as too provocative and unpractical, given the fact that so many were participating in the protest.

“The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution,” a spokeswoman for Ryan said in an email.

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A live broadcast of the House floor, provided by C-Span, was ultimately switched off Wednesday afternoon because Republicans called for a recess, a standard practice by the political broadcaster.

Wednesday’s sit-in started less than two days after the Senate rejected four different gun control proposals that sought to close a loophole in a federal gun law and reform ownership regulations and requirements.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made repeated calls for gun law reform during his time in office, and does so after each major incident of gun violence. He called for greater gun controls after high-profile attacks in Newtown, Conn., Umpqua Community College in Oregon and San Bernardino, Calif.

The president once again stated his position after 49 were killed and 53 were wounded in an attack at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub last week.

“Being tough on terrorism, particularly the sorts of homegrown terrorism that we have seen now in Orlando and San Bernardino means making it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on assault weapons that are capable of killing dozens of innocents as quickly as possible,” he said.

Numerous lawmakers in the House attracted attention to their #NoBillNoBreak campaign online with social media posts and photographs.

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