Washington – Pressed by the conservative wing of their party, House GOP leaders discussed options this week to punish Rep. John Larson and other Democrats who staged a sit-in on the House floor to protest the lack of action on gun control measures, but they’ve yet to unveil a strategy.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. told reporters this week that lawmakers who participated in June’s 25-hour sit in, led by Larson and Georgia’s Rep. John Lewis, broke the chamber’s decorum and rules by blocking proceedings and shooting video with their cell phones, among other actions.
“Are you going to let the House stand with that behavior going forward?” McCarthy said. “I think it would create real damage to the reputation of the House in the long term.”
McCarthy said action would come “soon.” While the conservative “Freedom Caucus”‘ is pushing for action, McCarthy and other GOP leaders have declined to say exactly what that action will be.
One option is to vote on a resolution that would reprimand or censure the sit-in protesters, which included all members of Connecticut’s House delegation, without singling out any by name.
Another proposal is to vote on a change in House rules that would establish fines for rules violations. But the fines would become effective in the next Congress and not be retroactive.
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said steps to punish the protesters were supposed to occur on Friday, “but they pushed it to next week.”
She told Politico attempts to punish the sit-in participants, especially civil rights icon Lewis, would “backfire” because they would remind the public of GOP inaction on gun control and of the popularity of the sit-in, which went viral on social media.
“If I were advising them, which I am not, I would advise them not to do that,” Pelosi said. “It’s not a good thing for them, but if they want to do it, bring it on.”
Larson said he’s waiting for GOP leaders to make public their plans, but doesn’t know what they will do.
Before the House recessed for a seven-week summer break, Larson and Lewis met with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who told the Democrats action would be taken to reprimand the protesters.
“He spoke of decorum and protocol,” Larson said. “But something also has to be done about the oppression of minorities and enabling minority members to bring votes on legislation their constituents care about.”
Larson said Ryan had gone back on a promise to hold a vote on gun control legislation – even consideration of Republican-backed measure that would bar guns from those on a federal terrorist watch list, but only after court approval.
“Here we come back (from recess) and instead of having a vote on gun violence…what they are doing is taking up measures to punish those who have conducted the sit-in. Yes it was an act of civil disobedience; yes it was a violation of House rules; but it was our way of standing up for our constitutional rights.”