Key Moments in the House Sit-In on Guns

The sit-in began at noon and wrapped up at 3:30 a.m. Thursday

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., talk in the Capitol's Statuary Hall before heading to a House Democrats' sit-in on the House floor. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., talk in the Capitol's Statuary Hall before heading to a House Democrats' sit-in on the House floor. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 22, 2016 at 8:09pm

11:25 a.m.: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., gives a thundering speech about the need for the House to take action on gun violence before going on recess. “We have lost hundreds of thousands of innocent people to gun violence….What has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing.”

Democrats begin chanting “No Bill, No Break.” Republicans called the chamber into recess, and the cameras were shut down. Lewis and Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., planned the protest.

Noon: Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, gaveled the session open again, but after a prayer and a defiant recitation of the pledge of allegiance, Democrats began chanting again. He quickly gaveled the session closed.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speak to members  gathered on the floor.

12:30 p.m.: Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy appears on the House floor, the first of about two dozen senators who showed up in solidarity.

12:45: p.m.:  The White House offered its support, saying Democratic members are “rightly frustrated” that Republican leaders will not give “even consideration” to such bills.

1:30 p.m.: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other House members hold a news conference on the steps of the Capitol. She vows to continue the sit in, “All day. We’ll be here as long as it takes. Everyday.”

At some point House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy comes by to talk to Hoyer. “He asked me what will it take to move on with the other business we have before us?” Hoyer recalled.

1:50 p.m.: Over 80 Democrats are in the chamber.

Democrats Stage Sit-In Demanding Vote on Gun Control

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3:30 p.m. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., broke down in tears as she reads a letter from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded in a shooting in 2011.

“Fighting gun violence takes great courage,” she read while crying. “It is both public and private, in our homes and on our streets, at work, at church, at the movies, at a dance club, at school and at school again.”

4:20 p.m.: Sen. Bernie Sanders entered the House chamber.

5 p.m.: “The best day I’ve had in Congress is right now,” New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said.

5:15 p.m.: Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton entered the House floor, followed and spoke to New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell.

6 p.m.:  Speaker Paul D. Ryan calls the sit-in a “publicity stunt” in a CNN interview and calls the gun control legislation unconstitutional.

7:15 p.m.: “We have no choice but to take over the floor,” says Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Etsy, who represents Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were slain in a 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “Since Sandy Hook, 100,000 Americans have been killed with a gun, think about that.”

7:55 p.m.:  Lewis walked up to the podium to a standing ovation and cheers. Members continued to applaud him as he waved to people in the galleries, who were applauding a well.

“Thank you for getting in trouble,” Lewis yelled. “Sometimes by sitting down, by sitting in, you’re standing up.”

“Never, never give up,” he said. “It’s not over, we don’t know what is going to happen. … the American people are with us.”

8 p.m.: “Moments of silence are a substitute for taking matters into our own hands,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

8:24 p.m.: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced to the chamber hat she brought Dunkin Donuts. 

Viewers in the gallery stand up and clap. All members cheered in the chamber. Members began a chant of “no bill, no break.”

9 p.m.: A crowd of more than 100 people gather on the floor. Democrats hear rumblings of Republican plans to force them out.

9:45 p.m.: Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards reads the letter from former Arizona congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords again as Republicans are entering the chamber.

9:50 p.m.: Democrats sit on the floor and hand out signs with names of victims of gun violence on them and posters with photographs. They chant “no bill, no break” for minutes.

10 p.m.: The House reconvenes to consider a veto override on an unrelated bill. Speaker Ryan begins expelling the vote as Democrats changed “No bill, no break” and wave their posters. Democrats boo as he steps down from the podium, and they start shouting “shame” for a while before returning to their loud “no bill, no break” chants.

10:17 p.m.: As the vote progresses, Democrats begin singing “We Shall Overcome” and then changed it “We Shall Pass a Bill.” The new words include:

“We shall end the hate…We shall save our kids.”

Democrats Sing ‘We Shall Overcome’ on House Floor

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10:31: The House votes down the veto override, which requires a two-thirds votes of members. 

Democrats develop a new chant.  

“What do we want? Votes! When? Now” Democrats chant.  

Chair then speaks over and said the house is in recess to which Democrats chanted “Shame. Shame.”  

House Sergeant at Arms tells Roll Call there has been no directive by the speaker for police to enter the chamber and remove members “at this time.”  

10:40 p.m.: Lewis walks outside the Capitol to speak to a crowd gathered there . “We must never ever give up or give in or give out.”  Group chants “we need a vote.”  

10: 45 p.m.:   A Democrat shouts “quiet” to Republican member still lingering and chatting in the chamber as the Democrats continue their speeches. A few Republicans yell back, including Virginia Republican Rep. David Brat who points out the Democrats are not in the majority. “I wish I could get a vote,” he said.  

10:51 p.m.: “What bill do you have against terrorism?” Brat adds as he continues to shout comments in an attempt to interrupt the Democrats.  

10: 55 p.m.:  Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert comes to the front of the chamber and starts shouting “Radical Islam killed these people.” A Democrat begins shouting “Don’t let terrorists have a gun.” As some fellow Republicans tried to pull him away, a crowd of a roughly a dozen members amassed into an argument but it broke up a minute later.  

11:10 p.m. – “There is a stain on the soul of America, and we must heal it. And it begins tonight,” Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Brendan Boyle says.  

11:30 p.m.:   An hour after the House went into recess, there are still several Republicans lingering on the floor. Most Republicans are talking to one another or looking at their phones rather than paying attention to the Democrats.  

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores, Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan are among the Republicans on their floor talking to their colleagues. Florida GOP Rep. David Jolly, who is interested in striking a deal with Democrats on “no fly, no buy” is sitting by himself.  

2:30 a.m.: House reconvenes to consider a conference report to accompany  the bill providing fiscal 2017 appropriations for the Veterans Affairs Department, military construction and military housing and provide funding to combat the Zika virus.  

3:25 a.m.:   With the conference report approved, the House votes to adjourn until Friday, when it will meet at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session. Next votes will be July 5 at 6:30 p.m.  

Republicans yelled “We’re done” as they exited the chamber while Democrats once against huddled into the well of the chamber where John Lewis and Nancy Pelosi talk about where to go from here.

3:30 a.m.: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer holds a press conference vowing to continue the fight when the House comes back for legislative business in July.

 4:15 a.m.: All but a couple dozen House Democrats are left in the chamber giving speeches following a nearly 16-hour sit in. 

Some members were seen in their seats curled up in blankets and nodding off around 4:15 a.m.

6 a.m.: “When the speaker of the House says this is just a publicity stunt, say that to the Orlando families, say that to the Sandy Hook families,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who represents Newtown, Conn.. “That’s not a publicity stunt. It’s a crisis. It demands that the House take action.”

6:10 a.m.: Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said the Democrats were sending a message with their continued protest.

“The American people need us to take their pain and turn it into a passion,” Cummings said at 6:10 a.m.. “We’re not satisfied to have a moment of silence. that’s not enough. What you are asking us to do is to stop the violence, to do something about this gun violence.  

11:30 a.m. : During his weekly press conference, Speaker Ryan accuses Democrats of setting a “very dangerous precedent .”  

1 p.m. : Rep. Lewis returns to the House floor to deliver his closing remarks.  

1:10 p.m. : Lewis and Democratic leaders end the nearly 26-hour talkathon and head outside to the East Front to address the crowd of supporters that gathered overnight.

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