From The Hill
House GOP leaders opted to send lawmakers home a day early for a holiday recess as Democrats threatened to stretch a widely publicized sit-in over gun control into a days-long demonstration.
The House adjourned for the Independence Day recess shortly after Republicans voted to pass an emergency funding package to combat the Zika virus after 3 a.m. Thursday. The House will have a pro forma session at 9 a.m. Friday but won’t return for legislative votes until Tuesday, July 5 and will then adjourn again 10 days later until after Labor Day.
Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) spokeswoman said that the Zika package was the only “must-pass” item before leaving for the recess.
“Despite the publicity stunt on the floor, House Republicans were intent on not allowing these tactics to stop us from completing this important business,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement. “With that tangible accomplishment, we will be moving on to the previously scheduled district work period.”
GOP leaders are giving no indication of allowing votes on the bills Democrats are calling for to prevent terror suspects from buying guns and expanding background checks on gun buyers. The Senate defeated similar proposals in the form of amendments to a spending bill earlier this week.
“Democrats can continue to talk, but the reality is that they have no end-game strategy,” Strong said. “The House is focused on eliminating terrorists, not constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. And no stunts on the floor will change that.”
Other tactics by Democrats to push for gun control in the wake of the Orlando shooting include chanting “Where’s the bill?” after a moment of silence for the Orlando victims last week. And Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), launched a 15-hour filibuster a few days later to push for votes on gun control.
Democrats continued their sit-in after the House adjourned at 3:14 a.m., but the crowd began to thin considerably given the late hour.
Still, more than two dozen Democrats remained on the floor, including several who wrapped themselves in blankets.
Members of the House Democratic whip team will meet later Thursday morning to discuss the next steps.
Despite the early adjournment, Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are both still scheduled to hold their weekly press conferences later Thursday morning.
“They will leave town in the middle of the night in a cowardly fashion,” Pelosi said of the GOP’s move.
The House spent most of the day in recess as GOP leaders were forced to abandon originally scheduled plans to consider a financial services spending bill.
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon who participated in sit-ins of the 1960s, led the protests as an act of civil disobedience.
Lewis, addressing the Democrats on the House floor after most Republicans had left, encouraged the lawmakers to continue the fight in a speech that was part thank you, part pep talk and part sermon.
“We crossed one bridge, but we have other bridges to cross,” said Lewis, who was nearly killed while marching across an Alabama bridge in 1965. “It took us three times to make it from Selma all the way to Montgomery.”
Democrats were in agreement in arguing that the day-long sit-in marked a sea-change in the gun reform debate.
“I think we have to believe it was a turning point,” said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.).
With that in mind, the lawmakers say this is just an opening salvo in a gun reform fight they’re hoping to make a top election-year issue.
“Just because they have left doesn’t mean that we are taking no for an answer,” said Pelosi.
“We will be back,” echoed Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip.
It’s unclear, however, what the Democrats’ next steps will be.
Hoyer is presiding over a whip meeting Thursday morning in the Capitol to try to plan their next move. But lawmakers seem to be pointing to a strategy of ending the sit-in this week, heading home for the long Fourth of July holiday, and returning to the fight — in whatever form it comes — when the House returns to Washington on July 5.
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