A Day After Shooting, House Democrats Erupt in Protest

Democrats said they would offer the same legislation the Senate rejected last December

A day after a mass shooting in Orlando, Democratic lawmakers erupted on the House floor with loud criticism of House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders for leaving the nation's gun laws untouched. Some protested by leaving the House floor during a moment of silence honoring the victims.

Democrats yelled "Where's the bill?" and "No leadership!" Monday evening after Ryan held a moment of silence for 49 people killed at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday.

The disruption came after South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, attempted to ask Ryan on the floor when bills curbing gun use would be considered. Before Clyburn could finish, Ryan ruled his question out of order and directed the House to move to the next vote.

After the disruption, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Democrats have "had enough" of moments of silence after mass shootings when Congress does not act to tighten gun laws.

A handful of Democrats left the House floor during the moment of silence, including Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes. Himes said earlier Monday in an interview that he's done with the moments of silence typically held on the House floor after mass shootings, calling them "obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence." His district is close to Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in 2012.

Leaving the House chamber, Ryan, R-Wis., declined to comment on the exchange. Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong tweeted that Democrats were politicizing the moment of silence, and called that "disheartening."

Hines is not the first Democrat to complain about the ritual. When a moment was held to honor victims of a deadly shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California, in December, several Democrats criticized it.

"We need to stand up, speak up, and take actions rather than another moment of silence," said Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., in a House floor speech at the time. "It is deafening, and it is killing us."

Monday in the Senate, Democrats planned to an attempt to force a vote on a proposal that owuld make it harder for suspected terrorists and people on government terror watch lists to buy guns, they said Monday.

Top Democratic senators told reporters they'd seek a fresh vote on a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the Senate rejected last December in a near party-line vote.

Democrats consider the bill "the logical and first and most likely to pass step" in response to the shooting, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. 

Schumer, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, said he believes Republicans "in a political season are going to find it very, very difficult" to oppose the legislation this time. The two parties are vying for control of the Senate in this November's elections.

Spokesman Donald Stewart said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will comment on Orlando when the Senate convenes Monday.

The Orlando shooter, identified by officials as American-born Omar Mateen, 29, was killed in the Sunday morning shootings.

FBI Director James Comey said Monday that Mateen had "strong indications of radicalization" and was probably inspired by foreign terrorist organizations. Officials said Mateen had twice come to the FBI's attention, including a 10-month investigation prompted after co-workers expressed concern over statements he'd made about possible ties to terrorist groups.

Last December, Republicans offered their own proposal for curbing guns for people on terror watch lists that also fell short in the Senate. That measure by No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas would give the government up to 72 hours to block such a sale by proving in court that there was probable cause to do so.

Democrats said they would try attaching Feinstein's measure to a bill financing Justice Department and other programs that the Senate could debate this week.

A similar House proposal by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has gone nowhere in that chamber.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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