House Democrats want Republicans to give them a vote on legislation to ban individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.
On Tuesday, they got to debate the issue — sort of. Members of the House Democratic Caucus launched a plan to force as many as 15 procedural motions to adjourn throughout the day, with others expected throughout the balance of the week, in a bid to force GOP leaders to bring up legislation that would give the attorney general authority to deny gun licenses to anyone deemed to be engaged in terrorist activities.
Democrat Protests Gun Control Inaction with Silent Speech
Forcing votes on all 15 motions, which would be held open a minimum of 15 minutes each, would burn three hours and 45 minutes of floor time when the House could otherwise be debating on the scheduled bills, as well as negotiating a year-end omnibus spending bill, tax extenders and other priorities.
The House ultimately didn’t bring up a number of suspension measures that were on Tuesday’s schedule.
By the fourth procedural vote on Tuesday, Republicans started to take the bait. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., called the maneuvering a “ruse.”
“The no-fly list [is] maintained by bureaucrats,” Perry shouted as Democrats booed from across the aisle, “the same administration that persecutes its citizens and has them audited by the IRS for their beliefs and what they say at prayer breakfast.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, took up the fight.
“I wonder if people who speak on this floor … sometimes listen to themselves,” he said, directing his remarks to the Democrats.
As floor decorum broke down, the normally congenial Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., could be seen having a stern conversation with Perry.
During the fifth vote on a motion to adjourn, McCarthy and Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., were seen speaking to Perry and Gohmert collectively, later joined by Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
Perry and Gohmert could then be seen huddling with the House’s most vocal conservatives and members of the Freedom Caucus, of which Perry is a part.
Spokesmen for Ryan, McCarthy and Scalise would not comment, though they appeared to be trying to keep the two members from creating a scene and engaging in a conversation about the issue.
Perry confirmed in an interview that leadership would have preferred he ignored Democrats’ procedural protest.
“Their feeling was is that we should deal with the issue at hand, which was the bill on the floor, and not allow the other side to monopolize the conversation with these other things – that in joining them in the conversation it was just kind of promoting the same kind of anarchy,” Perry said.
Asked if he was in trouble with leadership, Perry said, “I’m a grown man. I don’t get in trouble. I’ve talked to the leader a couple times since then. I’ve talked to the whip. I’ve talked to the conference chair. And I’ve talked to the speaker. And nobody seems to have any animosity. They just explained their position to me.”
Perry said he has no regrets about his response, especially given that he was not told of the plan before it was his turn to lead the floor debate.
“Everything I said is exactly true and exactly correct,” he said. “Look, if the other side wants to be the champions for taking away Americans rights without due process — I don’t know what Americans are for that — but that’s certainly something I’m willing to talk about. And so no, I don’t have any regrets about what I said or the way it was said. If anything I might regret that I kind of pulled back.”
That lack of restraint was exactly what Democrats wanted.
Earlier in the day Tuesday, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York said he and his colleagues were aiming to “shame Republicans into giving us a vote on stopping terrorists for buying guns in America.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., the sponsor of the bill with moderate Republican Peter T. King of New York, said Democrats were prepared to keep the House in session through the holiday season if the GOP did not relent.
“My sense is members of the Democratic Caucus are willing to stay here through Christmas, through New Year’s, through whatever else is out there, to get something done, to make sure their constituents are a little more safe,” Thompson told reporters.
Israel and Thompson hatched the idea for this strategy last week, then brought it to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for her blessing.
“It took her about three seconds to say, ‘If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this big,’” Israel said.
Ryan voiced opposition to the legislation during a CBS news interview on Dec. 3, the day after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. He argued people can arbitrarily be placed on the terrorist watch list without actually ever having posed a threat.
“What we’re trying to do is find out the facts and make sure that what our response is actually addresses the problems without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens,” Ryan explained.
Thompson said Democrats would be happy to amend the bill to address the speaker’s concerns.
That offer isn’t likely, however, to make Republicans feel better about bringing the measure to the floor, especially now that it could be construed as caving to Democrats more than ever before.