WASHINGTON – Speaker Paul Ryan is considering how to punish Democrats for last month's House floor sit-in, even as the chamber's top Democrat mocked the GOP threats and didn't rule out reviving the disruptive move to demand gun votes.
"Make my day. Make my day," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday of Republican steps toward penalizing Democrats for their nearly 26-hour protest. Asked if Democrats might renew their sit-in, she said, "I'll do what my members want to do."
The two leaders' remarks, in back-to-back news conferences, came as Republicans struggled to resolve internal differences that have imperiled a GOP-written gun and anti-terror bill. It was unclear when the House will consider the measure.
Ryan's and Pelosi's comments underscored that partisan tensions remain high over the election-year confrontation over guns prompted by last month's mass shooting in Orlando. The statement by Ryan, R-Wis., also highlighted the pressure he faces from rank-and-file Republicans to discipline Democrats for their overnight takeover of the chamber's floor.
Democrats resumed a different form of protest Thursday, as scores of lawmakers trooped to the House microphone holding photographs of people killed by guns and asked the House to debate legislation tightening background checks for firearms buyers. Their requests were denied.
Democrats read gun victims' names and said each was "a victim of gun violence who never received a moment of silence on the House floor." That was a derisive reference to the moments of silence the House often conducts after mass shootings. Democrats say the House should take concrete action by enacting gun restrictions.
In answer to a question, Ryan did not rule out a vote of censure or reprimand for sit-in participants.
"We're looking at all of those things," he said, adding that Republicans didn't want to make a decision "in a rash, wrong way."
Ryan said the House parliamentarian and sergeant-at-arms have provided recommendations for steps he might take. He said they have studied videotape of the sit-in and researched congressional rules.
"My big concern is that a bad trend happens where we throw the rule of law out the window, Congress doesn't function and there's no hope for bipartisanship ever again," Ryan said.
Pelosi scoffed at the threat of Republican action against Democrats.
"What are they going to do, investigate John Lewis for sitting on the House floor?" she asked. Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia who helped lead the sit-in, was a prominent civil rights leader in the 1960s.
The GOP's anti-terrorism bill was stalled due to opposition by Democrats who consider it ineffective and conservatives who say it's too restrictive on firearms and too lax on battling extremism.
"We're trying to get this legislation right. We're trying to reflect a consensus" among Republicans, Ryan said.