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.
The speech underscored that Democrats lack the leverage they insisted they would have in spending showdowns with Republicans. Pelosi and others repeatedly promised immigration activists and the party base they would force a vote sparing undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation after President Trump rescinded the program in September.
Instead, Democrats’ ineffectiveness has angered those same activists and the voters critical in a midterm election year with control of the House at stake.
Pelosi, who began talking shortly after 10 a.m., sought the same assurances Democrats have gotten in the Senate — the promise of debate on an immigration bill, the one glimmer of hope on an issue that seems to defy resolution.
“Why should we in the House be treated in such a humiliating way when the Republican Senate leader has given that opportunity in a bipartisan way to his membership? What’s wrong? There’s something wrong with this picture,” Pelosi said.
Aides to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said that he intends to allow debate on immigration legislation that is supported by Trump. But when the debate might happen — and what kind of bill Trump can support — is still unclear.
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.