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Democrats seize House floor for sit-in on gun control

This photo provided by Rep.Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore. shows Democrat members of Congress participating in sit-down protest seeking a a vote on gun control measures, Wednesday on the floor of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington.
This photo provided by Rep.Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore. shows Democrat members of Congress participating in sit-down protest seeking a a vote on gun control measures, Wednesday on the floor of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Democrats and Republicans nearly came to blows on the House floor Wednesday night during an extraordinary protest for a vote on gun control legislation.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas approached the Democrats and yelled, “Radical Islam!” Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., started yelling back at him. The two came within inches of each other, both yelling.

Lawmakers from both parties separated the two.

The Democrats halted the day’s legislative session with their sit-in and protest. Republicans struggled to force the House back into session.

But Democrats brought pillows and blankets into the chamber, promising to stay the night.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut had a sleeping bag, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts brought Dunkin’ Donuts for her House colleagues who were staying awake.

Other lawmakers also brought snacks, including some who broke House rules to eat on the House floor.

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, dressed in a pink suit, carried a pink-and-white striped pillow in his hand for several hours as he walked around the House chamber.

Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth joined dozens of fellow House Democrats in the rare sit-in on the House floor Wednesday to try and force a vote on gun background checks.

Democratic members essentially took over the House floor starting at midday to demand House action after the killings in Orlando, Fla.

“Why can’t we come together and vote on no fly/no buy?” Veasey asked when he spoke on the floor, referring to proposed legislation that would outlaw gun sales to suspected terrorists on the federal government’s “no fly” lists.

“That should be easy. That should be simple,” he said.

Republicans ruled the House to be out of order and called a recess when Democrats first congregated in the well of the House chamber. That meant that the C-SPAN cameras were turned off and the microphones were also off.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement to reporters, “The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair.”

Undeterred, Democrats continued their protest and broadcast their remarks themselves, using Periscope and other social media.

In a statement, Veasey said: “Today I joined House Democrats in an unprecedented sit-in on the House floor, calling for immediate action on common-sense gun safety legislation to protect Americans nationwide. … No one law or set of laws will end horrific acts of violence, but Congress has an obligation to take action and make sure that terrorists and bad guys don’t have easy access to guns in our country.”

Maria Recio of the Star-Telegram Washington Bureau contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.

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