Politics

Dems Have Walked Out Over Guns, and Now Kavanaugh

Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono aren’t the only ones to make a dramatic exit in the Trump era

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and a handful of other Democrats headed for the exits Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As a group of Democrats strode out of the hearing room Friday morning, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley wasn’t pleased.

“You folks who are photographers know that you’re supposed to sit down,” he said over the clicking cameras.

When the three Democratic senators — Mazie Hirono, Kamala Harris and Richard Blumenthal — reconvened in the hallway outside, they insisted their walkout wasn’t a stunt.

“We did not coordinate walking out. You know, we feel this in here,” Hirono said, pointing to her chest.

“This hearing is a sham and Dr. Ford and the American people deserve better,” Harris tweeted as the panel pushed ahead with a vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The move was a striking one. But that’s not to say that Congress hasn’t seen dramatic exits before. Here are some other times Democrats have stormed toward the Capitol doors:

March for their lives

When House leaders called a moment of silence on the floor to honor victims of November’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, one member wasn’t having it.

“My colleagues right now are doing a moment of silence,” California Rep. Ted Lieu said in a Facebook live video. “I’ve been to too many moments of silence. In just my short career in Congress, three of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred. I will not be silent. What we need is action.”

It looked a lot like the protest four Democrats staged back in 2016 after a massacre at an Orlando nightclub. After Paul D. Ryan announced a moment of silence in the House for the victims, Connecticut Democrats Jim Himes, John Larson and Joe Courtney, along with Peter Welch from Vermont, chose to walk off the floor. 

When they weren’t walking out, they tried sitting in. Civil rights icon John Lewis and Katherine Clark of Massachusetts led a dramatic protest in June 2016 demanding gun control legislation, complete with a chorus of “We Shall Overcome” and a Dunkin’ Donuts delivery from Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Republican leaders called it a “publicity stunt.”

Clearing the room

It could be that lawmakers learned the art of the walkout by watching their constituents. In July, protesters filed out of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant kids from the parents at the southern border. 

And high school students adopted the time-honored tactic when they staged a nationwide walkout in March to protest gun violence. Students rallied at the Capitol to demand action after the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

UNITED STATES - MARCH 14: Demonstrators cheer for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., while attending a rally on the West Front of the Capitol to call on Congress to act on gun violence prevention during a national walkout by students on March 14, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Demonstrators cheer for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., while attending a rally on the West Front of the Capitol to call on Congress to act on gun violence prevention during a national walkout by students on March 14. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Correction 3:30 p.m. | An earlier version of this story mischaracterized a statement released by Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez after Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

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