Democrats end 26-hour House sit-in, but vow to continue fight

WASHINGTON – Democrats ended a 26-hour takeover of the House claiming victory Thursday afternoon, even though they did not get the guaranteed vote on a gun-control measure they had been seeking.

Scores of Democrats started a sit-in late Wednesday morning vowing to “occupy the floor of the House” until the Republican majority agreed to allow a vote on the so-called “No Fly, No Buy” bill.

House leaders instead started the chamber’s Fourth of July recess a day early, adjourning at 3:13 a.m. Thursday while Democrats were still staging their sit-in.

And Speaker Paul Ryan continued to reject calls for a vote when the House returns from recess July 5 on the “No Fly, No Buy” bill that would prevent the sale of guns to people on the no-fly list.

But Democrats, who left the floor chanting early Thursday afternoon, said they had made their points, and they vowed to continue the fight after recess.

“Last night’s sit-in was historic and unprecedented,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, in a statement provided by his office Thursday.

“It was a direct response to the dysfunction of this do-nothing Congress and its leadership, beginning with Speaker Ryan,” the statement said.

Despite the disruption, the House was able to pass two bills overnight during the sit-in, according to a spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California.

“Despite the publicity stunt from House Democrats, the House was able to vote on funding to fight Zika” and on reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the spokesman, Matt Sparks, in an email.

He said the premature recess meant the House would not get to two bills that had been scheduled for votes this week, the Separation of Powers Act and the Financial Services Appropriations Act.

“Those are no longer being considered this week as the House is in recess,” Sparks wrote.

Ryan and other Republicans had blasted what they called a Democratic “publicity stunt” that ignored the issues of homeland security raised in the June 12 mass shooting at Orlando nightclub that killed 49 and wounded 53. Democrats cited that shooting and others in their call for the gun vote.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, said lawmakers should focus on preventing attacks like last week’s in Orlando, while protecting citizens’ constitutional rights.

“It is imperative that our Constitution remain protected and upheld,” Franks said in a statement released by his office.

“Every citizen’s Second Amendment right shall not be infringed upon or taken away, and doing so would only make American citizens more vulnerable to terrorist attacks,” Franks’ statement said.

The House drama comes as the Senate is locked in its own fight over “No Fly, No Buy” legislation.

After the Senate deadlocked on a series of gun-control measures Monday, a bipartisan group that included Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, put out the compromise measure Tuesday. They were pushing for a vote before the Senate leaves on its recess at the end of next week.

The Senate debated the measure Thursday, which survived a procedural vote allowing further consideration on the proposal.

Despite the end to the House sit-in, officials with Americans for Responsible Solutions said the demonstration served a higher purpose. The group was founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Tucson, and her husband Mark Kelly, after Giffords was severely injured in a 2011 mass shooting.

“It really highlighted that Americans are tired of Congress’ inaction,” said Sean Simons, a spokesman for the group. “The tides have changed in favor of responsible solutions.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, who took part in the sit-in – along with all the Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation – said the end of the sit-in was not the end of the struggle.

“The #DemocraticSitIn has ended, but our fight continues,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, tweeted Thursday. “We need common sense solutions to keep Americans safe. #NoMoreSilence #Enough.”