Democrats turned the floor of the House of Representatives into the stage of a wild effort to force a vote on gun control on Wednesday.
C-SPAN covered the event live, and you could watch the event from the Periscope live stream brought onto the floor by one House member, but it’s hard to convey the sense of chaos that gripped one of the most august institutions in American politics on Wednesday.
Among the unusual things that happened on the floor of the US House in just under a couple of hours on Wednesday night:
- Most of the Democratic House caucus breaking out into a "We Shall Overcome" chant for several minutes, sprinkling reference to overcoming cloture amendments and passing gun control legislation. Outside the Capitol, well over 50 protesters led a song of "We Shall Overcome" and later a call and response of "No Bill, No Break!"
- Democratic House members shouting "Shame! Shame! Shame!" at the top of their lungs at House Speaker Paul Ryan.
- Ryan’s attempts to address the Democrats breaking down several times amid shout and chants from the floor. They chanted "No Bill, No Break!" as Ryan lamented the decline of "decorum in this institution to which we belong."
- Capitol police asking people in the galleries to quiet down with the possibility of removing them.
- Democrats physically sitting on the floor in an apparent attempt to slow Republicans’ access to vote.
- Republicans sitting beyond a scrum of the Democrats, interrupting speeches by interjecting criticisms. "Rule of law means order!" one shouted as a Democratic House member tried speaking over him from the front of the chamber.
- Two members of the House of Representatives — Republican Louie Gohmert and Democrat Corrine Brown — screaming in each other’s faces just a few feet away from each other. (Some reporters said on Twitter that it looked as if they were about to get in a physical altercation.)
- Reporters in the House press gallery breaking out in audible laughter when one Democrat shouted, "This isn’t about partisan politics!"
- Police escorting someone out after Republicans complained about a gallery visitor who shouted something.
- Some Congress members brought food, pillows, and even sleeping bags, according to CNN.
The Democrats began a sit-in on the House floor early Wednesday, a week after a Senate filibuster forced a vote on gun control measures, kicking off a protest that, as of midnight, is about to enter its 12th hour.
Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, came back to the floor around 10 pm and successfully cast a vote to close debate on a bill that was, in any event, unrelated to gun control. They then mostly filtered out after officially closing the session.
But as of 11:30 pm the House Democrats remained undeterred and continued to give passionate, furious speeches about the need to pass gun control in the wake of the Orlando massacre.