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Wednesday
Jun222016

Chaos Erupts On House Floor Amid Gun Control Sit-In

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Congressional Democrats have staged an hours-long sit-in on the House floor to protest GOP inaction on gun violence -- ripping Republicans for being "silent for too long" about the "epidemic" of shootings.

The move, complete with senators sitting on the floor, speeches that were live-streamed and even pillows and backrubs, were blasted by the GOP as a "stunt" and "disgrace."

Around 10 p.m., House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to call the chamber back into order amid shouts of "No Bill, No Break" from the protesting members of Congress.

Led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the members, chanting "No bill, no break,” plan to stay on the floor until they get a vote on proposals to strengthen background checks and block individuals on the terror watch list and no-fly list from buying guns.

 The push to institute greater gun control has picked up steam in the wake of the Orlando massacre, which left 50 dead, including gunman Omar Mateen. Both of the guns Mateen used in the killings -- including an AR-15 style rifle and Glock handgun, were purchased legally.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said Democrats will continue on the floor as long as necessary, and will continue protests in Washington and in their home districts. The group of Democrats taking over the chamber are demanding action and will stay until Republican leaders agree to hold a vote on gun control legislation, attempting to use the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

The event had some pageantry, with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, dressed in a pink suit, bringing in a pink pillow. And Rep. Scott Peters got a back rub.

There were also snacks delivered to the chamber and the promise of pizza, according to Rep. John Yarmuth.

 Democratic members of the Committee speaking in support of the amendment used their time to discuss individual victims of attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando, in order to put human faces on the issue of gun violence.

House Speaker Ryan’s office has declared the protest a “publicity stunt” that is in violation of the standing 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 spokesperson AshLee Strong in a statement.

Ryan's office has recessed the House -- cutting off the chamber video feed -- but has not shut off the lights in the chamber or directed the House Sergeant at Arms to remove House Democrats.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), said that Republicans "want to take the high road in this" and blasted the Democrats move.

 House Republican leadership told their members in a closed-door meeting that they plan to vote tonight on other measures before the chamber but not on gun control legislation, ignoring the protest.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), spoke briefly on the floor this afternoon about the ongoing protest.

 Unlike senators, representatives are not permitted to filibuster.

Lewis, a veteran civil rights leader revered by Democrats, said action on gun violence is long overdue.

"The end goal of this sit in is to get the leadership of the Republican Party, the Speaker of the House, to bring forth a bill, a piece of legislation that would do something about the proliferation of guns in our society," Lewis said in an interview with ABC News. "We have waited. We've been patient. But we waited too long. We've been silent too long, and we will continue to engage in peaceful nonviolent action until something happens."

Recently, the Senate voted down four gun control measures and a compromise plan from Sen. Susan Collins was in the works. Some Democratic House lawmakers protested a moment of silence being held for the victims of the Orlando shooting because they said action needed to be taken instead.

Among those protesting on the House floor was Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Iraq War veteran who lost both her legs in combat. She got out of a wheelchair and sat on the House floor with other lawmakers.

 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House needs to act on gun legislation rather than repeatedly hold moments of silence in memory of victims of gun violence.

Many senators -- including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Elizabeth Warren, D-MA -- visited the House floor, and even brought care packages to House Democrats, who are taking turns speaking.

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