WASHINGTON (CN) – Twenty-four hours after they seized the House floor, Democratic lawmakers ended their push for congressional action on gun control, leaving the floor and their protest sit-in behind.
Several hundred House Democrats launched the sit-in Wednesday morning to push House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to hold a vote on universal background checks for all gun purchases, and to ban people on the no-fly list from buying guns.
But Ryan had harsh words for the Democrats, calling the sit-in a “stunt.”
“The reason I call this a stunt is because they know this isn’t going anywhere. It already failed in the Senate. They may not like this fact. But this bill couldn’t even get 50 votes in the United States Senate, let alone 60,” he said during his weekly press conference.
Ryan also sharply criticized fundraising efforts launched by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the sit-in.
“They are not trying to get this done through regular order,” he said. “They’re staging protests, they’re trying to get on TV – they are sending fundraising solicitations…If this is not a political stunt, they why are they trying to raise money off of it?”
Ryan said the bill failed “because in this country we do not take away people’s constitutional rights without due process. This is not just Republicans saying this. It’s groups like the ACLU who are saying this,” he said, abbreviating the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU has opposed gun control legislation based on terror watch lists, which it says are error prone, unfair and lack a meaningful process for people to challenge their placement on the lists, or clear their names.
“We know that there’s an issue with respect to terrorist watch lists and people attempting to buy guns,” Ryan said. “We’re looking at that. We’re doing it deliberatively – we’re not doing publicity stunts on the floor, we’re actually looking at this issue so that we get it right.”
Ryan said the FBI has warned Congress that if it does this the wrong way, it could “screw up” terrorism investigations.
When asked why he would not agree to hold a vote like the Senate did, he dug in his heels and said the House has rules and procedures.
“We have a process for this. This is a bill that isn’t even supported by a bipartisan majority. This bill, this amendment was brought up in the appropriations committee and it failed there,” Ryan said.
He added, “If you want to bring a bill that you can’t get through committee, you can do a discharge petition with 218 signatures. They’re not bothering with these things, they’re looking for publicity stunts.”
Before the sit-in ended, Democrats gathered around their protest leader, civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who led the sit-in.
“I’m proud of each and every one of you,” Lewis told the circle of his colleagues surrounding him.
“We must never ever give up or give in. We must come back here on July 5 more determined than ever before!” he shouted to cheers and applause.
After they left the House floor, Democratic lawmakers made their way down the front Capitol steps to greet a crowd of several hundred people who gathered to show their support.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., staunchly denied Ryan’s claim that the sit-in was a publicity stunt.
“Anybody who knows the history of John Lewis, anyone who has followed his life, there’s nobody in the world who has internalized nonviolence and love the way John Lewis has. John does not have any time for stunts and neither do you,” he said.
When asked whether the House could secure a vote without skirting procedures, Lewis pointed the finger at Ryan.
“This speaker has all the authority in the world when it comes to bringing bills to this floor,” he said.
“The fight is not over,” Lewis told the boisterous crowd. “This is just one step. But when we come back here on July the fifth, we’re going to continue to push, to pull, to stand up and if necessary to sit down or sit-in. So don’t give up, don’t give in, keep your faith and keep your eyes on the prize.”
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