House Democrats staged a sit-in June 22 for more than 15 hours to try and force a vote on gun control measures. Here's why. (Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

C-SPAN spokesman Howard Mortman hesitates not one bit to declare that broadcasting history is afoot: “This is the first time we’ve ever shown video from the House floor picked up by a Periscope account,” he told the Erik Wemple Blog.

Huh? Why would C-SPAN, which has a direct feed to House proceedings, need to rely on Periscope? Because these proceedings aren’t exactly official proceedings. Earlier today, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) led a sit-in on the House floor to push for action on gun control, following the failure of four gun measures earlier this week in the Senate. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more,” said Lewis, in part.

According to an official at the House Recording Studio, the cameras that C-SPAN commonly uses to broadcast House business are “in recess subject to the call of the chair.” (See summary of House legislative actions here). AshLee Strong, press secretary for House Speaker Paul Ryan, issued this statement: “The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair.”

No approved video feed, no problem: C-SPAN has been piping in the Periscope feed from Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat.

The Periscope approach, alas, didn’t provide the same reliability as C-SPAN’s official House-proceedings feed. “Well, the Periscope video froze up again,” said a C-SPAN anchor in the 3 p.m. hour. And a bit later: “We’re still having some issues with that video feed.”


At nearly 3:30 p.m., C-SPAN switched to a feed from Facebook, proving how quickly a Washington political brawl can turn into something of a media-technology showdown as well. Via Facebook, C-SPAN viewers could hear and watch Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) rip the “cowards who run this chamber” for failing to turn on the microphones. And Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.): “This microphone that they cut off belongs to the American people.”

One of the wonders of homemade video from the House floor is the candid audio: If you listen carefully enough, you can hear people whispering about national politics, perhaps unaware that their comments are going out to the entire country.

More to come on this story.