Ryan slams sit-in as 'fundraising scheme'

Ryan slams sit-in as 'fundraising scheme'
© Moriah Ratner

An irritated Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Pelosi administration It's not populism that's killing America's democracy MORE on Thursday ridiculed the 24-hour Democratic sit-in on the House floor as a publicity stunt and "fundraising scheme," accusing Democrats of trying to raise money off the tragic shooting in Orlando.  

The Wisconsin Republican held up to the TV cameras a couple of printed emails from House Democrats’ campaign operation, highlighting members’ occupation of the chamber floor and asking for donations. At least one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails was from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); another was from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon.

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“They are not trying to get this done through regular order. No, instead they are staging protests, they are trying to get on TV, they are sending out fundraising solicitations like this one,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. 

The Speaker then read aloud from one of the fundraising emails: “‘House Democrats on the House floor. Your contribution will go to the DCCC, $15.' This one says 'try giving us $25, but if you want you can send us $50, $100,  $250, $500, $1000.’ Because look at what we’re doing on the House floor, send us money.

“If this is not a political stunt, then why are they trying to raise money off of this, off of a tragedy," Ryan added.

Democrats, led by Lewis and Pelosi, have been staging a sit-in on the House floor since Wednesday morning, demanding a vote on gun control measures in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting where a gunman opened fire and killed 49 people.

Ryan said there are other ways for Democrats to force a vote on gun control measures but argued that there’s little congressional support. Those tactics failed in the Senate and in House committees, he said. Democrats also don’t have enough bipartisan support to force a vote on the floor; they need 218 votes for what's called a discharge petition.

“We have a process for this,” Ryan said. “This is a bill not even supported by bipartisan majority.”

"This is the people's house, this is Congress, the House of Representatives, the oldest democracy in the world and they're descending it into chaos," Ryan said. "This isn't a proud moment for democracy or for the people who staged these stunts."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, pushed back on Ryan. The GOP’s focus on Democratic fundraising emails missed the point, she said.

“If they think that the thousands of people, tens of thousands of people that are murdered, that die every year, 33,000 people who die of gun violence every year, is about fundraising, it shows how warped they are,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Ryan adjourned the House for the weeklong July Fourth recess early Thursday morning, a day earlier than had been planned. But that did little to dislodge Democrats from the floor.

Republicans, Ryan said, haven't decided how to respond if Democrats continue to occupy the floor through the recess or when the House returns to Washington after the holiday.

—Cristina Marcos contributed. Updated at 1:23 p.m.