House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiGOP lawmaker: Dems not standing for Trump is ‘un-American’ Rep. Gutiérrez: ‘Complete betrayal’ if Pelosi backs budget caps deal without DACA Senate leaders say they’re zeroing in on two-year budget deal MORE (D-Calif.) on Wednesday commandeered the House floor to deliver a marathon monologue designed to secure protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
In a record-breaking eight-hour, seven-minute speech featuring prayers, Bible passages and testimonials from “Dreamers,” Pelosi vowed to oppose a sweeping, two-year budget package — a deal she herself helped to negotiate — unless Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell: ‘Whoever gets to 60 wins’ on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight – House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 House passes stopgap spending measure with defense money MORE (R-Wis.) pledges to consider legislation shoring up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpTillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms Dems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Speier on Trump’s desire for military parade: ‘We have a Napoleon in the making’ MORE is sunsetting in less than a month.
The extraordinary speech was at once a remarkable display of endurance for the 77-year-old Pelosi and a media sensation generating endless buzz across Capitol Hill. It was also something else: a clear signal to Pelosi’s troops — some of them questioning her dedication to securing Dreamer protections — that she’s leading the fight on immigration head-first.
“This is not an issue that’s going to go away,” Pelosi said. “This is an American value that is deeply felt across the board.”
Pelosi was joined on the House floor by an ever-changing cast of Democratic lawmakers — many of them representing the minority caucuses that have led the fight over the fate of DACA — who gathered behind her to lend their support. It marked a show of confidence in the longtime Democratic leader that, at times, has been absent during the recent immigration debate.
Indeed, Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker: Dems not standing for Trump is ‘un-American’ Trump called for unity — he didn’t even last a week Overnight Defense: GOP plays hardball by attaching defense funding to CR | US reportedly drawing down in Iraq | Russia, US meet arms treaty deadline | Why the military wants 6B from Congress MORE (D-N.Y.), infuriated liberal Democrats last September — particularly the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — when they cut a short-term spending deal with Trump that excluded any DACA protections.
Since then, Congress has passed three additional continuing resolutions, none of which has led to a DACA fix. While Schumer used the filibuster last month to force a three-day shutdown, Democrats agreed to reopen the government without an immediate vote on immigration. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants ‘lazy’ McConnell: ‘Whoever gets to 60 wins’ on immigration Overnight Defense: Latest on spending fight – House passes stopgap with defense money while Senate nears two-year budget deal | Pentagon planning military parade for Trump | Afghan war will cost B in 2018 MORE (R-Ky.) vowed to consider an unspecified DACA bill this month — a commitment Ryan has not yet extended.
The lack of assurance that DACA will win a vote in the lower chamber has not been overlooked by liberal Democrats, who are quick to recall the 2013 immigration debate, when the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform package with bipartisan support, only to see it go ignored by GOP leaders in the lower chamber.
“It never saw the light of day in the House of Representatives,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday, suggesting he’s ready to oppose the new budget package.
Many liberals have pressed Pelosi and other party leaders to oppose any new spending bill that excludes the Dreamer protections. And they’re not mincing words.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), among Capitol Hill’s most vocal immigration reformers, said Tuesday that for Pelosi to support the newly crafted budget deal would be “a complete betrayal.”
Pelosi on Wednesday heeded the calls, taking to the floor just after 10 a.m. for a “one-minute” speech that extended for hours. Her stated goal was to get Ryan to guarantee a vote on DACA legislation. Without that pledge, she’s opposing the budget agreement.
“Without that commitment from Speaker Ryan, comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support, nor does it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus,” Pelosi said near the start of her speech.
Ryan has said for months he wants to act on a DACA fix, but won’t consider any legislation that’s not supported by the president — a difficult standard to gauge since Trump has repeatedly sent mixed signals regarding his DACA demands. On Wednesday, amid Pelosi’s sermon, Ryan gave no signals he’s ready to budge.
“Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the president supports,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in an email.
Announced Wednesday by McConnell and Schumer, the Senate’s sweeping budget agreement seeks to end the need for short-term funding bills by raising spending caps on both defense and nondefense programs over the next two years. The package includes a number of items demanded by Pelosi and the Democrats, including funding for the opioid crisis, natural disaster relief, veterans health-care facilities and medical research.
But it was the missing immigration piece that prompted Pelosi’s resistance. She huddled in the Capitol Wednesday morning with House Democrats, where lawmakers argued both sides of the question of whether they should hinge their votes for the budget deal on the DACA issue. But Pelosi had sealed her decision Tuesday night, sending her staff to gather Bible quotes Wednesday morning.
Hours later, other party leaders seemed to back her position.
“I think many, if not all of us — I don’t want to speak for every person — look at … the issue of DACA and immigration and how we treat immigrants in this country as the civil rights issue of the day,” Crowley said.
“That’s how strong this is for all of us in our caucus.”
It’s unclear if Pelosi’s opposition threatens passage of the budget package in the House, thereby heightening the chances of a government shutdown. A number of conservatives have vowed to oppose the legislation, citing the increased spending on domestic programs, among other concerns. Those defections will force Ryan to reach across the aisle for Democratic votes, but the numbers on both sides remain uncertain.
The Democrats have not yet decided whether they’ll whip the vote, according to the office of House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems confront Kelly after he calls some immigrants ‘lazy’ McConnell: ‘Whoever gets to 60 wins’ on immigration Hoyer: DACA deal a long ways off MORE (D-Md.).
If Congress fails to get a spending bill to Trump’s desk by the end of Thursday, large parts of the government would close their doors Friday.
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