Democrats in the US House of Representatives have ended their 25-hour sit-in to protest the lack of votes on gun control measures since the Orlando club shooting nearly two weeks ago.
The decision to end the sit-in came after Republican House leaders voted Thursday morning to recess early for the July Fourth holiday. Leaders in the minority party vowed to continue their tactics when Congress returns to session unless they can get a vote.
South Carolina’s Sixth District Congressman Jim Clyburn worked with his Georgia counterpart US Rep. John Lewis to lead the sit-in. He was the last to speak and reflected back to similar strategies that were used during the pair’s time in the Civil Rights Movement. “John and I started out this journey in October 1960 seeking the right to vote,” he said. “Here we are today, asking for the right to vote (on gun control bills).”
Clyburn drew on the Emanuel AME Church shootings in Charleston last year in his arguments that Islamic terror is not the problem with gun violence. “These (victims) were not in the wrong place, nor was it the wrong time,” he said. “They were exactly where they should have been.”
Republicans called the move a political stunt, with House Speaker Paul Ryan arguing that it prevented legitimate debate. “We are not going to allow stunts like this to stop us from carrying out the people’s business,” he said during a briefing to media members Thursday.
The Speaker did force several quick votes before recessing Thursday, passing a Zika virus funding bill over loud Democratic objections. Ryan insisted he wanted floor debate on the legislation, but Democrats were not having any of it.
Democrats are calling for increased restrictions on gun purchases for those on federal ‘no fly’ and terror watch lists. Republicans oppose the requirements without due process to protect those who may be on the list by mistake. A bipartisan bill being introduced in the Senate this week would block gun sales to those on the no-fly list with the option of letting them appeal their inclusion.
Clyburn is South Carolina’s only Democrat in either the House or Senate. State Republicans weighed in on the sit-in, however. “Democrat members are certainly free to stage a sit-in and shut down House floor activities as they have done,” Fourth District Congressman Trey Gowdy said. “What would be infinitely more productive would be asking this Administration and the Department of Justice in particular why prosecutions of current gun law violations has decreased under (President Obama’s) watch.”