June 23, 2016 at 8:20 AM
Thursday morning, House Democrats are in a sort of limbo. They are promising to keep control of the floor after their protest for gun control votes came to a confrontational close with House Republicans in the wee hours.
Where we are now: Republicans said the House is officially out of session for the rest of this week and next. Some House Democrats say they will stay on the floor anyway, but how they plan to carry that out — and whether it will match the intensity of the sit-in — is unclear. The Washington Post's Karoun Demirjian and Kelsey Snell — who stayed in the Capitol watching all of it — have the play-by-play of the entire night.
In case you're just getting caught up, here are the seven moments that have defined the sit-in so far.
We should note that one of the most interesting — or at least the most retweeted — moments of the Democrats' sit-in happened right as it got started:
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) did go down to the floor to join the sit-in, as did dozens and dozens of other House lawmakers. It had started a few hours earlier Wednesday, when House Republicans gaveled in for a morning prayer and pledge of allegiance. Suddenly, unexpectedly, House Democrats seized the floor to demand a vote on gun-control measures. They weren't going to leave until they got it. A (very rare) sit-in had been launched.
As the sun set in Washington on Wednesday, the sit-in showed no sign of slowing down. The fact that it had happened only twice since 1970, the fact that it fit well with Democrats' increasingly aggressive tactics on gun policy after Orlando. The fact that it couldn't be aired on C-SPAN because Speaker Paul Ryan declared a recess all made for a riveting narrative that America followed along on social media.
House Republicans, fresh from a huddle on what to do, had originally told reporters they'd be trying to force a showdown around 8 p.m. Their game plan was to conduct regular business like nothing had ever happened and hope the subsequent protest died down. To call Democrats' bluff, essentially.
Instead, House Democrats brought their leader of this sit-in, Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), to the microphone to try to hold off the Republicans. Lewis is a man who has done a sit-in or two in his life, and his reputation as a civil rights icon would make it politically untenable for Republicans to force a showdown.
It worked. Republicans didn't appear, and Democrats kept talking, past dinnertime. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined them, at one point stepping in front of the lawmaker broadcasting this all with his iPhone and was quickly ushered out of the way. "Hi America!" she yelled into the phone/broadcast/place holder for the C-SPAN cameras when lawmakers pointed out her mistake.
Lawmakers got hungry/loopy. They said funny things on the floor and shared their experiences with us on social media. (Yes, technically no electronics are allowed on the House floor. Or food. But lawmakers broke all those rules during their sit-in.)
Outside, there were ominous reports of police ready to go if things got ugly.
Soon, it was 10 p.m., and House Republicans decided to make their move — at least do something other than watching the sit-in unfold.
Their attempted intervention ended up being totally surreal. Ryan (R-Wis.) took his position at the head of the chamber, banged the gavel to call the House into session (at which point the C-SPAN cameras flicked on because those are the rules; we explain why they were off in the first place here), and calmly started to proceed with the day's business as if nothing were amiss.
"Shame!" Democrats yelled, crowding the House floor to drown out Ryan. "No bill, no break!"
Ryan put on his best game face and went on, seemingly unperturbed.
"The question is on ordering the previous question," Ryan said. "Those in favor say 'aye,' those opposed say 'no.' …. In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it." Gavel bang.
"To what does the good man from the Kentucky rise to speak?" Gavel bang.
"The gentleman from Minnesota, Mr. [John] Kline [R], is recognized for one hour." Gavel bang.
Democrats did end up obliging the speaker by voting — it was to override a veto President Obama had issued — but they didn't behave.
Lewis stepped outside to address a gathering of 150-some supporters on the Capitol lawn.
Republicans' frustration with this sit-in started manifesting itself. As Democrats kept speaking about gun violence, conservative Texas Republican Louie Gohmert approached them and started raising his voice, too — demanding to know why Democrats weren't addressing radical Islam in the wake of Orlando.
He was joined by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who shouted at the Democrat speaker, in front of a crowd of Democrats. According to Washington Post reporters watching the scene from the balcony overhead, a Democrat tried to pull them away. People started jostling each other. At one point, King tried to grab the podium Democrats were speaking at.
Eleven-plus hours into the sit-in, Congress represented more of a schoolyard playground than one of the venerable legislative bodies in the world.
At about 2:30 a.m., as the protest was winding down anyway, Republicans reconvened — this time to vote on a funding bill to address the Zika virus.
Then Ryan pulled out his big card — voting to close the chamber until July 5. You see, the House had already agreed to go on a week-long break for the holiday. That partly explains why Ryan needed to get some votes done over Democrats' protest, and it explains why Ryan felt justified closing down the House in the middle of one of the most heated protests on its floor.
A similar confrontation happened back in 2008 when the tables were turned and Republicans were the ones taking over the floor to House Democrats, then in the majority, to agree to a vote. Instead, House Democrats voted to put the chamber in recess and not only turned off the C-SPAN cameras, but the lights, too.
Politico's John Bresnahan: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats adjourned the House, turned off the lights and killed the microphones, but Republicans are still on the floor talking gas prices."
Back to Thursday morning. Democrats regrouped. By about 7 a.m., about 20 stayed on the floor, including their leader, Pelosi, who promised to stay.
"Just because they have left, it doesn't mean we have to take no as an answer," she told reporters.
What exactly a continued sit-in looks like is unclear.