U.S. House Democrats roared back to life just before noon today in Washington D.C., as 76-year old civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) called for a 'sit-in' to protest Republican Leadership's refusal to allow a debate and vote on gun safety legislation.
Congressmembers answered the call and one of them, Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, joins us on today's BradCast to explain what the Democrats are hoping to accomplish with this very rare protest and how long they intend to continue their occupation of the House Floor to do it. [Audio link to complete show is posted below.]
"We don't have a filibuster option in the House," Deutch says, stepping off the floor for a few moments to talk to us. "When the leadership of the House will not allow us to have a vote, and will twist the rules in whatever way they deem necessary to prevent us from voting on the most basic gun safety legislation, then we're forced to find other ways to bring that vote forward. That's what we're doing today."
Members were forced to break House rules by using cell phones to stream video of their 'occupation' on Facebook and Periscope, which C-SPAN has been subsequently rebroadcasting, after Republicans gaveled the chamber into recess and ordered C-SPAN cameras and microphones shut off.
"What's astonishing to me is that the Speaker apparently is so distraught at the idea of members of the House speaking out --- and speaking out on behalf of the people who sent them there --- that he has told C-SPAN to turn off their cameras," the Congressman tells me. "It's disgusting that we've not had a single vote on gun safety legislation. It is embarrassing, however, for House leadership --- that they are so embarrassed by their own records --- that they've told C-SPAN to cease broadcasting because they don't want any more attention brought to their shameful inaction."
"There's been no vote because they don't want to have to go on record and vote against the interests of their constituents, and vote in support of the gun lobby," he says. "It's so hard for people to understand how it is that Congress cannot even engage in a debate on the House floor, that we're forced to have a 'sit-in' just to talk about the most common sense gun safety measures."
Deutch says the House Democrats came up with the idea for their occupation last night, and that they plan to continue the protest until they either get a vote or are, essentially, arrested and physically removed.
"The only way to have order is for the Sergeant-at-Arms to haul people off. That's one option. I can't imagine that is an option they want to pursue. I can't imagine for a minute that the House leadership is prepared to tell the Sergeant-at-Arms to take John Lewis and the rest of us, and drag us off the House floor. And if that doesn't happen, the only way that this stops is to for us have a vote, and I think we're all prepared to stay at this as long as we need to until we have a vote."
"Overnight?," I ask him. "Absolutely," says the Congressman. "I am certainly prepared to do that."
The House Dems, like their counterparts in the Senate (a number of whom have stopped by the sit-in, in support) have been insisting, since the Orlando Massacre just over a week ago, on votes to close the online and gun show background check loopholes and for legislation to help prevent people on the FBI's suspected terrorist and 'No Fly' lists from purchasing weapons. They are supported on those measures by nearly 90% of Americans across all political parties, according to recent polling.
And what if Dems get their vote and the measures fail, as expected, in the Republican-controlled House? "The voters will know which members of Congress stand with them and who stands with the gun lobby. And that's when accountability will start," says Deutch.
At the end of our conversation, the Congressman also offers his thoughts on his Florida colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio, announcing his intention today to run for re-election, despite his abysmal attendance record and previous vows, during his failed run for the GOP Presidential nomination, to leave the U.S. Senate at the end of this term.
Also on today's busy show: Momentum for a bi-partisan 'compromise' bill in the U.S. Senate regarding gun purchases by those on the 'No Fly List'; And vote counting continues in California following the June 7th primary, while citizen observers fight for the inclusions of Provisional Ballots in the final tally and as the statewide vote margin between Sanders and Clinton narrows to single digits...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)