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Democrats Expect Sit-In Ban on House Floor

Larson says punishment could come in form of rules change

Connecticut Rep. John B. Larson expects a rule change to prevent future sit-ins on the House floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Connecticut Rep. John B. Larson expects a rule change to prevent future sit-ins on the House floor. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats returned to Congress this month frustrated that Republicans have not brought gun-related bills to the floor following a nearly 26-hour demonstration in June in the well of the chamber.

But one thing the minority party may expect before the end of September is a rule change to prevent members from orchestrating another sit-in on the floor — and a vote on such a change could be the last thing on the House’s agenda before it dashes off for recess in a few short weeks, Rep. John B. Larson told Roll Call on Tuesday.

The Connecticut Democrat, one of the organizers of the June sit-in, said that was one option he’s heard being considered as a possible way to punish Democrats for orchestrating the demonstration, which broke several House rules.

[Democrats ‘Not Worried’ About Punishment for House Sit-In, Hoyer Says]

Republicans have been floating the idea of issuing some type of punishment but have stayed mum on the details. 

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California told Roll Call last week that some form of reprimand would come as soon as it’s ready. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said Tuesday that Republican leadership was still deciding what it wanted to do.

[House GOP Gun Measure Won’t Satisfy Democrats]

Larson said the timing of a vote on such a rule change would come right before the House adjourns for recess this month.

“The rumor that we hear is that [it will happen] on their way out the door,” Larson said. “As the Romans would say, a Parthian shot.”

Republicans criticized Democrats following the sit-in, pointing to multiple House rules that were violated, including sitting in the well of the chamber and using cellphones to record video and take photos on the floor.

No one is allowed to use electronic devices inside the chamber if they are not designated staff. Democrats used live-streaming apps on their phones to broadcast the demonstration because House cameras were turned off after GOP leaders declared a recess shortly after the protest started.

[Order in the House]

Democrats were demanding a vote on gun bills related to “no-fly, no-buy” legislation and to expanding background checks following a mass shooting in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in June that killed 50 people including the gunman.  

One Republican aide said leaders were not considering the possibility of repurposing a package of counterterrorism bills the GOP tried and failed to bring to the floor this summer. The package, in part designed to stop suspected terrorists from buying guns, did not have the support of Democrats because it included language backed by the National Rifle Association.

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