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GOP members take over empty House floor in protest

  • Story Highlights
  • Several House Republicans refuse to go home Friday
  • The protesting conservatives gave impromptu speeches without microphones
  • GOP wants Democrats to vote on offshore drilling, other energy ideas
  • House and Senate have adjourned for the August recess
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From Lisa Desjardins and Deirdre Walsh
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The microphones were off and the lights were dim, but more than a dozen House Republicans refused to go home Friday after the body adjourned for August recess.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, got off a plane Friday when he heard Republicans had taken over the House floor.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, got off a plane Friday when he heard Republicans had taken over the House floor.

The protesting conservatives gave about six hours' worth of impromptu speeches and nearly filled the seats of the chamber with staffers, Boy Scouts and tourists in an attempt to pressure Democrats to hold a vote on offshore oil drilling and other GOP energy ideas. Republicans say about 45 congressmen took part.

Reporters scrambled to cover the extraordinary event, with no cameras permitted in the chamber.

All sound systems had been turned off as soon as the House went into recess. But the noise was easy to hear from outside the chamber. Video Watch more on Congress' energy stalemate »

The crowd on the floor chanted, "Vote! Vote! Vote!" after Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, called for more action on energy and urged each person to tell 10 others to join the cause.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said he was on a plane ready to take off for Texas when he heard his GOP colleagues were still on the floor. He headed back to the Capitol.

"The word went out that the people's house is finally the people's house again," he said.

The Republicans were recycling an idea that Democrats unleashed in 1995, during the government shutdown debate. Democrats remained on the floor after Republican House leaders ended a Saturday session for the day and demanded that Congress continue its work.

Democrats kept speaking then just as Republicans did Friday, even with the microphones turned off. This time, however, Republicans brought in reinforcements to keep the speeches going longer.

Unsuspecting tourists were drafted to fill seats. "I was surprised," said Becky Evans, a visitor from Michigan. "We were here for a tour, and we were asked to come in and take a seat in the House."

Evans, a Republican, supported the effort. "The fact that Democrats left before getting their work done is highly disappointing," she said.

A strange partisan divide evolved during the event. The tourists who were signed up for tours with Republican congressmen and senators were frantically ushered in to fill seats on the chamber floor. But tourists with passes from Democratic offices watched from above, in the balconies.

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"I was not impressed at all," said Sue Miller, from Memphis, Tennessee. "Democrats did not have a chance to defend themselves."

The chamber was half to two-thirds full during the speeches.

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