WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 chamber 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.
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 typically held on the House floor after mass shootings, calling them “obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence” and the perfect metaphor for congressional inaction on guns.
Himes’ Connecticut district is close to Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in 2012.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi stayed for the moment of silence and said she supported it. But after the disruption, she told reporters that Democrats have “had enough” of the ritual after mass shootings when Congress does not act on bills that could keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
“The moment of silence is an act of respect, and we supported that, but it is not a license to do nothing,” she said.
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.”
Himes is not the first Democrat to protest 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.”
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