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Pelosi: Dems won't stop on gun reform

Pelosi: Dems won't stop on gun reform
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Thursday that Democrats won't relent in pushing GOP leaders on gun reform until they get a vote on a bill.

Pelosi said the precise tactics Democrats will employ are yet undecided — “stay tuned,” she said — but she vowed the pressure won't let up just because the House has left town for a long Independence Day recess.

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“Let me be really clear about this. We cannot stop until we get a bill, until a law is passed,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. 

“This isn't about politics. It's not about elections. It's not about campaigns. It's about the safety of the American people. We want this off the table.”

The remarks came shortly after the Democrats ended a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor that effectively commandeered the chamber, energized the party, disrupted the Republicans' vote plans and forced GOP leaders to adjourn for the holiday break 36 hours ahead of schedule.

Launched Wednesday morning by Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and John Larson (D-Conn.), the protest was a response to House inaction on gun reform following the June 12 shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were killed by a single gunman. 

The Democrats are pushing for votes on a pair of bills. One would bar the sale of firearms to those on the FBI's watchlists monitoring suspected terrorists. The other would expand background checks on prospective gun buyers.

Pelosi, who participated through the course of the long protest and hadn't slept at all, said the Democrats are simply “tired and frustrated” by the congressional inaction that's followed a long string of mass shootings in recent years, including the near-killing of their own colleague, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), at a campaign event in 2011.

“Every time it happens, we have a moment of silence,” Pelosi said. “But that is not a substitute for the actions that are needed.”

Republicans were not amused. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNow we know why Biden was afraid of a joint presser with Putin Zaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power MORE (R-Wis.) accused the Democrats of exploiting the Orlando tragedy, the deadliest mass shooting in the nation's history, to raise campaign funds.

“If this is not a political stunt, then why are they trying to raise money off of this — off of a tragedy?” Ryan said during his own press conference just hours before Pelosi's.

Cicilline, who was also up all night, quickly dismissed Ryan’s argument as “nonsense.” He said he didn’t know how the fundraising started.

“I don't make the decisions, I don't know who's doing that,” he said. “But the suggestion that this is anything but serious and heartfelt and an issue that we're deeply committed on is nonsense.”

Ryan said he's “very worried” about the precedent the protest might set when it comes to managing the House, citing his “obligation as the Speaker … to protect this institution.”

He said GOP leaders are eying ways to prevent the Democrats from staging a similar spectacle in the future.

“We are reviewing everything right now, as to what happened and how to make sure that we can bring order to this chaos,” he said.

He may need to bone up on his floor enforcement options, as some Democratic leaders, newly emboldened by what they consider the success of the sit-in, see the aggressive approach as a new tactical model.

“It's a new day in Washington, it's a new way to fight,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said early Thursday morning. “We're not going to sit back and do nothing anymore.”

Pelosi didn't go so far. She said the Democrats will do what they must to pressure Republicans on gun reforms, but suggested tactics would depend on the issue at stake.

“I think you have to just take it on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “We'll take it one issue at a time.”