AAPI lawmakers join Democratic House members in sit-in for gun control action
FINAL UPDATE: 11 p.m. EST, June 22, 2016
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) called on his fellow Democrats to stage a sit-in in the House chambers this morning (June 22) for a vote on gun control measures.
WHOA! We have a Capra-esque moment developing this morning.
Georgia Rep. Rep. John Lewis, the heart, the soul of congressional Democrats, is leading his colleagues in a sit-in for a vote on gun safety legislation. You won't see it televised, because the Republicans controlling the House also control the cameras. C-SPAN, however, began broadcasting live feeds from House members using Facebook and Periscope to capture the speeches by the protestors. To watch the sit-in live,click here. The lawmakers were acting in response to the June 12 mass shooting at a Florida nightclub that killed 49 people, and to votes on Monday that failed to advance four gun control amendments.
In the speech, Lewis said, "Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long. 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. And this is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more. The time for silence is over."
Asian/American representatives were quick to use social media to let the world know what was happening. Rep. Judy Chu, (D-Ca), who joined the sit-in in its early hours, tweeted this out:
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who led the talking filibuster to force the votes in the Senate earlier this week is on the House floor in solidarity.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) held a press conference essentially saying that the Party leadership supports this action. She tells Democrats that the public is not being allowed into the galleries to see their protest. Democrats chant "SHAME!" "It's the People's House!" Also, the Sergeant at Arms has told members to stop sharing photos and video from the floor.
If you have a Democratic senator, call his or her office and urge them to join Rep. Lewis and Chu and Sen. Murphy. Also call your Democratic House representative and urge them to join. The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121, and they will connect you.
It looks and feels like an inspirational scene from motion picture director Frank Capra's classic Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, when Lewis got up to the podium and launched his passionate appeal:
Mr. Lewis: Mr. Speaker, I will ask that all of my colleagues join me on the floor. On occasion, Mr. Speaker, I have had what I call an executive session with myself. For months, even for years, I wondered what would bring this body to take action? What will finally make congress do what is right? What is just what the people of this country have been demanding, and what is long overdue? We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence, to tiny little children, babies, students and teachers, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, friends and neighbors . And what has this body done?
Mr. Speaker, nothing. Not one thing. We have turned deaf ears. We have turned deaf ears to the blood of the innocent and the concern of our nation. We are blind to a crisis. Mr. Speaker, where is the heart of this body? Where is our soul? Where is our moral leadership? Where is our courage? Those who work on bipartisan solutions are pushed aside. Those who pursue commonsense improvement are beaten down. Reason is criticized. Obstruction is praised. Newtown, Aurora, Charleston, Orlando. What is the tipping point? Are we blind? Can we see? How many more mothers, how many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something ? We were elected to lead, Mr. Speaker. We must be headlights and not taillights. We cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand. Deadly mass shootings are becoming more and more frequent . Mr. Speaker, this is the fight. It is not an opinion. We must remove the blinders. The time for silence and patience is long gone. We're calling on the leadership of the house to bring commonsense gun control legislation to the house floor.
Give us a vote. Let us vote. We came here to do our job. We came here to work. The American people are demanding action. Do we have the courage? Do we have raw courage to make at least a down payment on ending gun violence in America? We can no longer wait. We can no longer be patient, so today we come to the well of the house to drum the need for action. Not next month. Not next year. But now. Today. Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long. 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. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more. The time for silence is over. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It looks like the House members are in for the long haul. Sen. Mazie Hirono and her staff came by with much needed sustenance.
While waiting for the Republicans to return, in the late afternoon and early evening, several Democratic senators joined the sit-in support. Among them were: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Chris Coons (Del.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Al Franken (Minn.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii). Presidential candidate and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined late in the afternoon.
The Republicans gaveled the meeting to order at 10:05 p.m. to vote on unrelated matters. C-SPAN began broadcasting again showing the Democrats still sitting in front of the podium. During the voting, the Democrats chanted, "No Bill, No Break," and "No Fly, No Buy." Around 10:30 p.m. EST, the Democrats began singing "We Shall Overcome."
As of this Final Update today, the drama in the House chambers continues into the night.