Nancy Pelosi stages eight-hour ‘Dreamers’ vote speech


Fri, Feb 09, 2018 - Page 6

US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday staged a record-breaking eight-hour speech in hopes of pressuring Republicans to allow a vote on protecting “Dreamer” immigrants — and to demonstrate to increasingly angry progressives and Democratic activists that she has done all she could.

Wearing 10cm high heels and forgoing any breaks, Pelosi, 77, spent much of the rare talkathon reading personal letters from the young immigrants whose temporary protection from deportation is set to expire next month.

The Democrat quoted from the Bible and Pope Francis, as Democrats took turns sitting behind her in support.

The Office of the House Historian said it was the longest continuous speech in the chamber on record.

“You see, these people are being deported,” Pelosi said after about six hours. “We can do something today to at least make whole the children.”

Her remarks seemed partly aimed at the liberal wing of her own party, who seethed as US Senate Democrats cut a budget deal with Republicans that could quickly steal the momentum behind the effort to resolve the Dreamers’ plight.

The wide-ranging budget accord says nothing about renewing the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which temporarily shields Dreamers — hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the nation as children and living there illegally — from deportation.

US President Donald Trump has moved to annul DACA.

Pelosi said she would oppose the budget deal unless Republican leaders agreed to hold a House vote on helping the Dreamers, but top Democrats said they were not corralling rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose the budget pact, leading some of the party’s immigration advocates to question the forcefulness of her opposition.

“I’m going to take everything she says at face value and then hopefully tomorrow she will validate that trust by stopping us from voting for it. If she doesn’t, then it was a nice speech,” US Representative Luis Gutierrez said.

Another backdrop of her performance — simmering displeasure among the growing ranks of ambitious younger Democrats who say it is time for the party’s 70-something leaders to step aside.

Pelosi’s performance had no immediate impact on Republican leaders, who have not scheduled a vote on the issue.

AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Ryan “has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the president supports.”

While Pelosi spoke, immigration activists rallied in Washington and threatened retribution against congressional Democrats who abandoned the strategy of demanding that a budget accord be paired with an immigration deal.

The fresh threats exposed deepening divisions within a Democratic Party struggling to address a liberal priority in Republican-controlled Washington.

“I’m not a loyal Democrat,” Linda Sarsour, a political activist who cochaired last year’s Women’s March, declared during a fiery rally near Capitol Hill. “We will be joining primaries this year and we will primary Democrats who did not have the spine or the courage to stand up for our undocumented family.”

The activists who filled a Washington church on Wednesday, like liberal leaders nationwide, called out Pelosi and US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for failing to attach immigration legislation to a must-pass bill such as the budget deal.

“What are they thinking? They’re giving up their leverage,” said a frustrated Angel Padilla, policy director for the liberal group Indivisible.