Yarmuth among key group of House Democrats staging sit-in on gun control legislation

06/22/2016 06:34 PM

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are doing something rarely seen in modern politics — staging a sit-in and posing a threat to Republicans who control the chamber that they’ll hold up legislative business until they’re promised a vote on gun control legislation.

Kentucky’s lone federal Democrat, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, is one of a group of 20 who first began talking about the non-violent protest on Monday.

When Pure Politics spoke to Yarmuth by phone on Wednesday, nearly 100 Democratic members had taken control of the House floor and were broadcasting their message to the nation over their smartphones.

“Even though the C-SPAN cameras were turned off by the Republican majority, we’re live streaming the speakers through cell phone and the media gallery is full and the regular gallery is crowded, so there is still a considerable audience for what people are doing,” he said.

The House is scheduled to be out-of-session starting on Friday afternoon until July 5, and Yarmuth says he and many of his colleagues are asking for a vote by the end of the week — or the chamber will stay closed until the GOP agrees.

The bill Yarmuth and others are calling for a vote on is a “no-fly, no-buy” bill, which essentially says that those on a no-fly list cannot buy a firearm. A proposal he says makes sense following the mass shooting in Orlando that took the lives of 49 people.

There could be a compromise position in the works, Republicans have offered a similar bill which would add a due-process element to add a period of adjudication for those who feel they have been wrongly added to a no-fly list. The compromise, Yarmuth said, would “not be an unreasonable provision” to add to the bill.

Democrats in the House are holding the floor for a promise on that one bill, but there are other measures Yarmuth said they’re seeking, including universal background checks, closing the “gun-show loophole”, and the internet purchase loophole, keeping people on the terror watch list from buying guns.

Other members would like to re-institute the assault weapons ban which was enacted in 1994 that lasted 10 years. However, Yarmuth acknowledges that’s not something that is being pushed for “right now.”

“We’re trying to get the easiest thing done and that bill (the no-fly, no-buy) has the support of 90 percent of the American people,” he said.

As the sit-in passed its seventh hour on Wednesday, Yarmuth said some Congressional Republicans have approached House Democrats to “find out what it would take for us to give the floor back.”

“I would have to assume anything that happens will involve (Speaker Paul Ryan).”

Republicans led by Ryan could seek to have Democrats removed from the House floor and get on with the business of the House, but Democrats say it could result in a black-eye for the GOP.

“We don’t know exactly what the response the sergeant-at-arms would be. We assume at some point they might try to have us escorted off the floor,” Yarmuth said. “I don’t think they’d ever bring in the Capitol Police and drag us off the floor — that would be a nightmare for them.

“The way we figure it is, if they escort us off the floor we leave peacefully and then we walk back in,” Yarmuth continued. “They can’t keep us off the floor we’re members of the House.”


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