DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa House Democrats walked out of the Statehouse on Wednesday morning, a move that temporarily stalled debate on two gun rights measures but left Republicans with the option of taking action by themselves.
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a statement that accused Republicans of not giving him proper notice of the legislation, which he labeled as extreme. An aide said the Democrats were together, somewhere in Des Moines, but he wouldn't give details.
House rules allow the 100-member chamber to convene and approve measures with a simple majority, so Republicans could choose to resume work because they hold 60 seats.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Republicans were pondering their next move.
One of the bills up for debate would allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves and the other called for writing gun rights protections into the Iowa Constitution. The second measure would have to be approved by another legislative assembly next year and then be referred to voters.
In his statement, McCarthy, D-Des Moines, said Republicans hadn't been honest with him.
"House Republicans have betrayed our trust and have told us today, contrary to what we were led to believe yesterday, that not only are they debating bills they said would not come up, they are going to attempt to alter the Iowa Constitution with extreme language that, if enacted, would turn Iowa into the wild, wild west," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said House Democrats saw it as a misuse of power.
"We therefore in unity have left the state Capitol in protest," he said in the statement.
Paulsen said Democrats were told well in advance of the plans for debating the gun measures.
Oddly, the gun measures likely would face trouble in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow majority.
Asked whether Senate Democrats would be skeptical about the bills, Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal responded, "I would say that's accurate."
Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he wasn't warned in advance of the walkout.
"I know nothing about what happened," he said.
The Democrats' action occurred soon after the House came into session for the day. They asked for a break to hold a private meeting but instead they left the Capitol.
Rep. Kim Pearson, R-Pleasant Hill, said he was puzzled by the move.
"They ought to be willing to debate the issue," Pearson said.
Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, said the governor would have no comment.
Dean Fihr, a spokesman for McCarthy, said House Democrats would have no comment beyond the statement Democrats issued. Fihr wouldn't say when Democrats would return.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.