The microphones were off, the House had stopped TV feeds to C-Span and the lights dimmed after the pre-noon vote to adjourn for the August recess. That didn't deter Republicans, who one after another rose to demand that Congress stay in session until it does something about high gas prices.
Unlike a normal session where the rules of decorum are strictly enforced, GOP lawmakers and their aides who filled the chamber clapped, chanted, gave standing ovations and booed the Democrats.
"Madame Speaker, where art thou?" shouted out Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, in a glancing rhetorical shot at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Where oh where has Congress gone?"
It was a rare treat for tourists. Republicans invited many, in their shorts and sandals, into the chamber, usually strictly off-limits, to better hear the revivalist-like speeches.
The talkathon finally ended around 5:00 p.m. EDT, more than five hours after it began and 30 minutes after police escorted tourists out of the chamber. The Capitol closes to tourists at 4:30 p.m. In a grand finale, lawmakers led a roomful of aides in a rendition of "God Bless America" and walked off to chants of "USA, USA."
The event, said Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, one of the organizers with Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana and Tom Price of Georgia, was "the equivalent of the Boston Tea Party over the energy issue."
Republicans are angry that Democrats blocked them from a vote on allowing more offshore oil drilling and increasing domestic oil supplies.
Democrats have faulted Republicans for obstructing their efforts to stop market speculation, press oil companies to develop the leases they have and force the president to release oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. The result is that Congress is leaving town without a comprehensive energy bill.