House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi commandeered the House floor Wednesday for a day-into-night marathon plea to Republicans for action on immigration, casting the fate of young undocumented immigrants in moral terms.
The 77-year-old Pelosi stood for more than eight hours, reading multiple personal stories from “dreamers” and citing Bible passages. Her speech ranked as the longest given by a member of the House of Representatives in at least a century, possibly ever, focusing on an issue that has vexed Democrats for months.
Taking advantage of a rule that allows only top party leaders the special right to speak as long as they want, Pelosi had called aides at 7:45 a.m. on her drive to work Wednesday and instructed them to send out an all-member request for stories from dreamers and select Bible verses. By the afternoon, Democrats had submitted hundreds of stories that staffers printed out and rushed to the floor.
Pelosi stood from the podium in four-inch heels and spoke and spoke and spoke.
Pelosi used the speech to say she would lead opposition to a broad two-year budget agreement, negotiated with Republicans by her and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), that includes several Democratic priorities but does not address the legal status of people protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is set to expire next month. The fate of people protected by the program has prolonged the spending debate for several months.
Shortly after 6 p.m., Pelosi finished her remarks that had been delivered entirely standing, as she was forbidden from sitting down or taking a restroom break. Her Democratic colleagues applauded.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, says the 3-day-long government shutdown that briefly brought Washington grinding to a halt was “the right thing to do” in order to stand up for “Dreamers.”
“I think from a moral perspective it was the right thing to do. And that is to say to these 800,000 young people, we are not going to allow them to be subjected to deportation,” Sanders told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Sanders said short-term continuing resolutions like the one that ended the shutdown by funding the government at current levels through Feb. 8 are “very detrimental to the military and to many other agencies of government.”
“We are a $4 trillion government. There are areas where we should be spending more money, areas where we should be spending less money. But you cannot simply spend in every division of the government the same amount as you spent last year,” he said. “It’s a terrible, terrible and inefficient way to run a government.”
While both Republicans and Democrats have called for DACA legislation to protect Dreamers, Sanders said he still has concerns about the Trump administration’s other priorities in any immigration bill, such as cuts to legal immigration programs.
“We cannot let [Dreamers] be put in a position where they’re subjected to deportation,” he said. “So the main focus to my mind has got to be to make sure that Dreamers have legal status and a path toward citizenship.”
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