House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivered a multi-hour address to her congressional colleagues on Wednesday, in an effort to oppose a two-year bipartisan budget deal struck by Senate leaders hours earlier. The bill notably excluded any mention of or protections for hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
Beginning at 10:04 a.m. Eastern Time, the senior Democratic House leader used a special privilege called the “magic minute,” which is afforded to party leaders in the House of Representatives and allows them to speak at length without having to filibuster. For more than six hours, Pelosi stood and read the stories of various Dreamers and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“We want to be sure that the public record of the Congress of the United States forever more will reflect the stories of their great contribution to America in the hopes that those stories will move the Speaker of the House to give us a vote [on immigration],” Pelosi said.
Pelosi at one point shared the story of Jirayut New Latthivongskorn, an activist and physician-in-training who came to the United States from Thailand at the age of 9. His accomplishments in advocacy and the world of medicine have drawn acclaim and he was included in Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list in 2017.
“Will America be a stronger country if we deport him and others like him?” Pelosi asked. “Will we be a better country if we tear apart American families? Of course not we all agree on that.”
Pelosi’s decision to take the floor followed a statement earlier in the day by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), announcing a two-year budget deal that increases military spending at the behest of President Trump, at a cost of $160 billion and provides approximately $128 billion in non-defense discretionary spending. It now heads back to the House for another vote, where it will be met with strong pushback. If it passes the House, it will go to Trump’s desk to be signed.
Pelosi opposed the budget deal because it failed to address the underlying issue that sparked last month’s shutdown, longterm protections for DACA recipients. On Wednesday, she announced that she and “a large number” of her Democratic House colleagues would oppose any deal put forward without protections for DACA recipients, including the most recent budget legislation.
“There will be billions in funding to fight opioids, to strengthen our veterans and the (National Institutes of Health), to build job-creating rural infrastructure and broadband, and to fund access to child care and quality higher education,” Pelosi said in a written statement, but without protections for DACA recipients, “this package does not have my support.”
Across social media on Wednesday, users noted the contrast between the actions of Senate Democrats, who appeared to have caved to pressure and abandoned their immigration demands, and Pelosi’s clear strike on behalf of Dreamers:
Nancy Pelosi has been reading stories of young immigrants, aka Dreamers, for almost three hours. She still has plenty of papers on the lectern.
— Natalie Andrews (@nataliewsj) February 7, 2018
As Chuck Schumer is praising budget deal as “the first real sprout of bipartisanship,” Nancy Pelosi has hit hour 4 of her immigration/DACA floor speech. DACA NOT included in today’s deal.
— Scott Detrow (@scottdetrow) February 7, 2018
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is now at five-plus hours speaking solo on the House floor on DACA. No breaks. No water. On her feet the entire time.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) February 7, 2018
Some also noted the somewhat unique nature of Pelosi’s action, which she has never undertaken during her lengthy tenure in politics and which is highly unusual in the House:
Pelosi has never done something like this before. In fact, no one really has. The House doesn’t have a filibuster the way the Senate does. Leaders have used their extended “one minute” privilege to speak for maybe 20-30 minutes before, but Pelosi has spoken for nearly 3 hours
— Sarah D. Wire (@sarahdwire) February 7, 2018
Chances of a government shutdown dimmed this week following the Senate deal, but Pelosi’s public demonstration indicates a fight could be coming in the House. A number of House Democrats are now demanding a debate on immigration and have called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow for such a conversation.
“What are you afraid of?” Pelosi said. “Give us a vote. Let the House work its will.”
A spokesperson for Ryan, AshLee Strong, said the speaker does not intend to open up a debate on immigration in the House.
“Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the president supports,” Strong said.
Democrats aren’t the only source of opposition Ryan may have to worry about. The far-right House Freedom Caucus has also indicated several members may move against the deal.
“I’m afraid the numbers will get so high and the debt ceiling will be added and it will be a Christmas tree of spending — that a lot of votes will be bought,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) in an interview with MSNBC.
“This is a bad, bad, bad, bad — you could say ‘bad’ a hundred times — deal,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) added. “When you put it all together, a quarter-of-a-trillion-dollar increase in discretionary spending — not what we’re supposed to be doing.”
The government is set to shut down again once funding runs out on February 8, if no budget deal is reached in the House.
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Author: E.A. Crunden