Republicans Stage Protests on House Floor

Posted August 1, 2008 at 12:24pm

Chanting “work, work, work,” a band of House Republicans staged protests on the House floor and refused to leave the chamber on Friday after Democrats pushed through an adjournment resolution in an attempt to cut off Republican speeches.

The House voted 213-197 at 11:23 a.m. to adjourn, but Republican conservatives eager to speak on high gas prices were unwilling to disperse, and their guerrilla campaign was quickly embraced by House Republican leaders.

At one point, Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) managed to turn on the floor microphones by randomly guessing a security code governing the sound controls, but House staffers turned the microphones off after about half an hour, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office was attempting to force the press to exit the press gallery overlooking the floor.

Reporters were also kicked out of the Speaker’s Lobby. At one point, however, Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) came into the press gallery and stayed after being told by staff that they could not close the gallery if a Member was present. Later, Blunt was relieved by Shadegg and brought several reporters onto the House floor, and Republican Members were seeking to stream video via their BlackBerrys to YouTube.

Blunt said that at one point, 195 House Members had signed up to do five-minute speeches after the last vote of the day, prompting Democrats to change the adjournment resolution to cut them off.

“We are letting them have their fun because it only makes them look stupid,” said a Democratic leadership aide, who said that the Speaker’s Lobby was closed as it normally is when the House is not in session but denied that Democratic leadership was attempting to kick the press out of the gallery.

Republicans had hoped to highlight to a C-SPAN audience that Democrats were leaving town without voting on expanding areas open to oil drilling, but C-SPAN relies on the House’s television cameras, which are automatically turned off when the House is not in session.

Asked for comment, the Speaker’s office attacked the GOP.

“Republicans are too scared to go home to face their constituents after voting against bills to force Big Oil companies to use it or lose it, demand that the president free our oil from the government stockpile and crack down on speculators,” said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Pelosi. “In a week where Exxon Mobil made the largest quarterly profits by a U.S. corporation, Republicans are staying in Washington to argue that Big Oil deserves more taxpayer lands. That sums up their priorities.”