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Demanding Action On Gun Control, House Democrats Stage Sit-In

Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.(seated left), Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. (center) as they participate in a sit-down protest seeking a vote on gun control measures on Wednesday.
Courtesy of Rep. Chellie Pingree
Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.(seated left), Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. (center) as they participate in a sit-down protest seeking a vote on gun control measures on Wednesday.

Updated 3:20 a.m. ET: House approves $1.1 billion in Zika funding and adjourns

Despite a sit-in by House Democrats that has lasted 15 hours, Republicans passed a funding measure for Zika and left for the July 4 recess. The House will convene in a pro forma session Friday morning but no business will be conducted until July 5.

Democrats had been trying to force a vote on gun control measures. Their sit-in continues at this hour.

Updated 1:35 a.m. ET: House votes to adjourn, will reconvene at approximately 2:30 a.m.

When the House reconvenes, Republicans will attempt a procedural vote on the Zika funding measure. If successful, they will move to a vote on the bill itself and then adjourn for the July 4 holiday break.

Updated 10:40 p.m. ET: Speaker moves to regain control of House

After recessing the House for most of the day and leaving Democratic members to protest for gun-control votes, Speaker Paul Ryan gavelled the House back into session at 10 p.m. ET.

Ryan disregarded the Democrats' shouts of "no bill, no break" and "shame," to take votes on matters unrelated to guns. Then the House recessed again, and Democrats resumed their protest.

For more details, here is our original post:

Demanding action on gun control, about 30 Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives are staging a sit-in.

Lawmakers are grouped in the well of the chamber, in front of the speaker's dais and in chairs in the front row. Some members are literally sitting on the floor of the House.

When the House was gaveled back into session a little after noon, Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas who was speaker pro tempore at the time, was shouted down by members.

"No bill, no break," they chanted. The House is scheduled to break on Sunday, and Democrats are demanding a vote on two bills before they go: one that bars anyone on the no-fly list from buying a firearm and another that broadens background checks for firearm purchases.

A prayer was said and members recited the Pledge of Allegiance, but once it became clear that regular business would not take place, Poe called for another recess.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, 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."

Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, announced the sit-in earlier this morning.

"We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence — 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?" Lewis said, flanked by fellow Democrats. "Mr. Speaker, nothing. Not one thing."

Lewis and 18 of his colleagues also sent a letter to Speaker Ryan urging him to keep the House in session and schedule a vote.

"There is no doubt that our path to solutions will be arduous," the letter reads. "But we have to agree that inaction can no longer be a choice that this Congress makes."

Lewis' colleagues in the Senate held the floor for nearly 15 hours last week demanding much the same thing. Senate Democrats eventually succeeded in getting a vote, but all four gun control measures failed.

There is no official live video of the demonstration on the floor because the cameras in the House are turned off once the chamber goes into recess.

However, some representatives, including Rep. Scott Peters, of California, and Rep. Beto O'Rourke, from Texas, have been streaming the speeches from the floor. Saying they don't control the cameras in the House chamber, C-Span has been airing video from Facebook and Periscope.

filming on the floor is a violation of House rules, but there is no way to stop it unless the speaker directs the sergeant-at-arms to clear the floor.

The galleries, which were at one point closed, are now open to the public and dozens of people, including tourists and staff, are watching the sit-in.

NPR's Ailsa Chang reports that Democrats voted to suspend the rules, but it's unclear if that vote matters considering that the House is not in session.

The Congressional Radio and Television Galleries, representing the broadcasters who cover Congress, said that it "appealed to the Speaker's Office to open up camera access of the sit-in demonstration" — but the "request was not granted." You can read the statement here:

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.