Waving posters and chanting “Free D.C.,” a crowd calling for the government to reopen on the Capitol’s East Front tried to interrupt a Senate Democratic news conference Wednesday.
Thirty-five Democratic lawmakers stood on the Capitol’s steps and reiterated their now-familiar demands to Republicans. While some of the protesters interviewed said they blamed the GOP, and not Democrats, the scene made for an awkward juxtaposition.
At one point, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray walked slowly from the site of the protest at the area known as the Senate Swamp, toward the senators. There was a brief moment of tension, because it was unclear what Gray would say or whether he intended to interrupt, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., smiled at Gray, stretched out his hand, and welcomed him onto the steps.
Leroy Thorpe, a Northwest resident and government social worker who’s lived in Washington since 1980, said he wants to see Congress reopen the government immediately. Others near him nodded in assent. “I think we need to stop the gridlock,” he said. “I think the Republicans are holding the nation hostage and hurting a lot of people.”
Democrats took the opportunity to reject the House’s so-called mini-continuing resolutions and asked for their colleagues to adopt their CR.
“The whole government needs to be open,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
The district’s sole representative in Congress also addressed the crowd of protesters, telling them that if they wanted to speak to lawmakers, they should enter the Capitol or office buildings. “I don’t think I need to tell you all what you need from senators,” Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia told the protesters. “Out here we’re talking to ourselves, but if they hear directly from you, that makes some difference.”
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The House voted down the otherwise uncontroversial Energy and Water appropriations bill Thursday after Democrats succeeded in attaching an amendment affirming LGBT job discrimination protections for military contractors. More than 40 Republicans supported the amendment, but when it came to vote on the bill, 130 Republicans joined all but six Democrats to sink the bill. Speaker Paul Ryan said Democrats voting against the bill after securing the amendment shows their intention was to scuttle the process. Democrats, however, blamed other so-called poison-pill amendments for their votes against the bill. Nonetheless, Ryan said he intends to continue the appropriations process.
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