California members stall business on House floor as Democrats try to force gun control votes


Democrats in Congress attempted to force a vote on gun control measures in both houses Tuesday, further pressuring Republicans to address gun violence days after the San Bernardino shootings.

A leader of the House move, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), said his efforts would continue Wednesday and the rest of the week.

In the Senate, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked their colleagues for unanimous consent to pass a bill that would prevent individuals on the FBI's terrorist watch list from purchasing guns and explosives. A vote was not allowed.

Democrats in the House attempted to bring a similar measure, written by Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), out of committee and onto the House floor through a process called a "discharge petition."

To force a vote on the bill, a majority, or 218 House members, has to sign the petition. By Tuesday evening, 143 had signed on.

Thompson, who filed the discharge petition, used a delaying tactic and called for the House to adjourn.

"Since the House won't take up legislation to prevent the senseless deaths of 30 people killed a day by someone using a gun, I move that the House be adjourned," Thompson said.

At one point, there seemed to be some confusion as to what members were voting on as they filtered in and out of the room.

The measure failed, as did several more calls to adjourn. The effort was led mostly by California members, with four of the five votes so far called by Thompson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara).

Swalwell said Democrats planned to call for adjournment "until the message is received."

"We’re trying to show that if this House is not going to take action on what’s at the top of the minds of all Americans, what are we really doing here?" Swalwell said.

While the number of signatures on Thompson's discharge petition ticked up, some members' patience for the maneuvers was wearing thin.

The repeated adjournment votes delayed planned floor activity Tuesday. The House has not yet voted on a spending bill to avert a government shutdown, with a deadline Thursday.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) said Democrats' delaying tactics weren't likely to change Republican leaders' minds on bringing up the gun legislation.

"This is a stall tactic to force a government shutdown," Denham said.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) said repeatedly calling for adjournment was a tactic the minority was welcome to use to bring attention to an issue, but "I don’t think it changes anybody's mind."

Democrats called for adjournment five times Tuesday, and Thompson promised more adjournment motions would be brought up in coming days. He said the House Democratic Caucus agreed to this series of show votes to slow action on other must-pass legislation in the last congressional days of the year.

"Our caucus last week hit the tipping point," Thompson said. "They said, 'We want something done.' "

In a letter to House Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Congress had a "moral responsibility to pass this common-sense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and protect America's communities."

As the House wrapped up Tuesday, Thompson said he wasn't done.

"I think we’re going to resume trying to get their attention tomorrow," he said.

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3:39 p.m.: The article was updated with quotes and new information after votes.

This article was originally published at 1:12 p.m.