Six House Democrats entered the Senate chamber Wednesday afternoon and took seats on the backbench of the Republican side of the aisle. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, Danny Davis of Illinois, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Carolyn Kilpatrick of Michigan, Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and Jackie Speier of California held what they called a silent protest against GOP obstructionism on job creation.
“We will be here every day and our numbers will grow,” said Rep. Edwards, organizer of the protest.
Democratic House members have been upset that Senate Republicans have tried to prevent votes on initiatives Democrats support by demanding 60 votes to end debate — known as a filibuster. Senate Republicans recently filibustered an extension of unemployment benefits, which eventually came to a vote and passed. The threat of Republican filibuster on an energy bill that included a cap and trade provision helped kill it in the Senate even though House Democrats already passed a version of that bill.
Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., went over to the group and talked to them, as did Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. Bennett shook hands with each House member, though it did not appear he spoke to them.
Edwards said the members will enter the Senate chamber at 2 p.m. every day to bring attention to the plight of their constituents, the ones without a paycheck. House members can enter the Senate chamber by rule, but they do not have floor privileges .
“We have no intention of disrupting the business of the Senate,” said Moore, “but by us sitting here in the Senate chamber silently we’re bringing attention to the issue and lack of jobs. Republicans continue to stand in the way of our people getting back to work,” Moore added.
The protest occurred reportedly at the same time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was in negotiations with Republicans to move forward on a small business bill — legislation Democrats say will help create jobs. The bill includes $14 billion in tax enhancements to existing government and small business programs.
The House is scheduled to leave for a six-week recess by the end of the week.