Sit-ins and protests on the floor of Congress are rare but do occur from time to time. Over the past few decades, both parties have engaged in them.
Republicans mounted a floor protest over energy legislation on August 1, 2008. After then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi adjourned the House, the bill—which would, in part, lift a federal ban on offshore oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—was left without a vote.
Republicans were outraged. According to John Boehner, the minority leader at the time, around a dozen or so Republicans occupied the otherwise vacant floor to protest the decision and demand a special session for a vote. News reports indicate that they encouraged tourist to fill the galleries. One lawmaker brought a stack of gas station receipts, which he brandished above his head.
The protests continued for days. Congress would pass an energy bill later in the session. It did not include drilling rights in the refuge. “The whole floor was packed, the gallery was packed,” Boehner said. “This has never happened before.” But it had.
On November 18, 1995, in the midst of a full government shutdown over the federal budget, 28 Democrats stormed the floor after the Republican leadership refused to keep working, called a recess, and left.
The Democrats chanted “work, work, work,” “save Medicare,” and “where’s Newt?” in reference to the House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Notably, the Republicans turned off the television cameras in 1995, as well. But Harold Ford, a Democrat, climbed up to the press gallery and turned them back on.
The protesters threatened to stay all night. But two hours later they were gone. Congress passed a temporary spending bill the next day.