WASHINGTON, DC — All eight Democrats in Washington state's congressional delegation were among dozens of House and Senate Democrats who staged a sit-in on the House floor on Wednesday to demand a vote on gun control legislation.
The lawmakers sat on the floor and refused to allow Republicans to take back control. They took turns talking about gun violence, said they wouldn't leave until House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., allowed a vote on measures to curb it, and chanted over and over "No bill, no break!"
"Where is our courage?" said Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who organized the impromptu sit-in. "Those who pursue common-sense improvement are beaten down. Reason is is put aside... What is the tipping point? Are we blind. Can we see? ... Give us a vote! we came here to do our job!"
Among them were Washington state representatives Jim McDermott, Suzan DelBene, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, and Denny Heck.
"I'm joining Congressman John Lewis and my colleagues to demand a vote on commonsense, bipartisan legislation that would prevent suspected terrorists from walking into a gun store and legally buying deadly weapons," DelBene said. "Congress should not wait until the next tragedy -- we can and must do more to protect our communities from the tragic cycle of gun violence."
Washington senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell joined the protest.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a former congressman, was in the nation's capitol and made an appearance on the House floor.
At noon, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, repeatedly banged his gavel to call the House into order, the Democrats refused, and so he gaveled the House into recess.
House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., suggested that could be a marathon recess.
"Our people deserve to know where their representatives stand on this issue, just as they now do with their senators," he said. "Led by civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis, we will be sitting-in until the House is allowed an opportunity to vote. This is an issue that ought to transcend party - it's about saving lives and keeping our communities safe."
Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, "The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair."
Most of the demonstration, unlike last week's filibuster in the Senate, was not broadcast on C-SPAN because the network does not display the House floor when it is in recess. But many lawmakers took to social media to post photos and video of the protest.
“The cameras may have been shut down, but we're still here,” Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., tweeted.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Calif., went to the floor and called for a moment of silence as some held hands and continued chanting.
“We cannot let another moment of silence happen on the House floor without acting," Pelosi said.
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., led a prayer. Nine people were gunned down in a church in South Carolina last June.
“I am prepared to stay here until hell freezes over,’’ Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said. “We’re here because we can’t take it anymore…We can’t take burying our young people."
The sentiments drew widespread support from fellow Democrats. Former president Bill Clinton weighed in on Twitter, saying “This is leadership.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, who led the nearly 15-hour filibuster in the Senate, went over to the House floor to show his support.
“This is an extraordinary tactic,” he said as he headed into the chamber shortly after noon. But, he added, “This is an exceptional time.”
He was soon joined on the House floor by fellow Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Cory Booker of New Jersey, who both helped lead the filibuster. Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also joined.
Over at the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said House Democrats are “are showing the kind of frustration and even anger that people around the country have.”
“What Democrats are asking for is neither radical nor controversial,” he said, citing polls showing that expanded background checks are favored by large majorities of people, including gun owners.
Most of the demonstration, unlike last week's filibuster in the Senate, was not broadcast on C-SPAN because the network does not display the House floor when it is in recess. But many lawmakers took to social media.