When Was the Last Time Congress Had a Sit In?


Rep. Donna F. Edwards shared this photo of the sit-in by House Democrats. (Twitter/Donna F. Edwards)

The House Democrats’ sit-in has lasted more than 24 hours. At 3:13 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, Republicans regained control and adjourned, while Democrats promised to keep protesting on the floor. And now they’re marking a day-long sit-in. Is such a long sit-in rare? When was the last time there was a sit-in in Congress? You might be surprised to learn that Republicans led the last one.

Here’s what you need to know.

A sit in within Congress is rare. In fact, the last time we had one was in 2008, when it was led by Republicans. Then, House Republicans had a sit-in just before a month-long break. They were seeking to get approval for an energy proposal that would expand oil and gas drilling. This was proposed because gas prices had reached $4 a gallon, and they were trying to get the prices lowered, The Washington Post reported.

Back in 2008, Nancy Pelosi responded similarly to how Republicans responded today. The cameras were turned off and the mics were turned off. In fact, The Washington Post reported that this is normal practice when the House is not in session. What the Republicans did was not out of the ordinary or unusual, especially when compared to how the Democrats did the same thing in 2008, even going so far as to turn off the lights back then. The mics were eventually turned on back in 2008 because Republican Rep. John Shadegg typed random codes into the public address system and accidentally entered the right one.

In 2008, Democrats called the Republicans’ sit-in a stunt, much like Republicans have said about the gun control sit-in. The main difference between the two is that the Republicans’ 2008 sit-in only lasted about 5 hours compared to the Democrats’ 15-hour sit-in.

The Republicans didn’t have livestreaming back in 2008, but they kept talking for five hours even without an audience. Politico reported about the sit-in in detail in 2008. Republicans were called morons and reporters were kicked out of the Speaker’s Lobby and the Capitol Police later tried to kick reporters out of the press gallery above the floor too.

Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo) said at the time, “House Republicans are continuing to fight on the House floor. Although the lights, mics and C-SPAN cameras have been turned off, House Republicans are on the floor speaking to the taxpayers in the gallery who, not surprisingly, agree with Republican energy proposals.”

Before 2008, House Democrats had a shorter sit-in in 1995 to protest a Republican-passed budget. It lasted only a few hours.

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