Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
With time running out, with her own team wavering and media attention wandering, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did something no other Democrat would. She went to the mat for the Dreamers, the 2 million undocumented immigrant youth in danger of deportation.
Her erstwhile partner in Democratic opposition, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), had cut the Dreamers loose by severing the immigration issue from negotiations over a two-year budget deal to prevent another government shutdown. Red-state Democrats running for reelection in 2018 are sniping and the Twitterverse cares more about a domestic abuser on the White House staff than immigration politics.
It was the longest speech ever in the history of the House of Representatives, which (unlike the Senate) gives unlimited speaking privileges only to the speaker and the majority and minority leaders. Her stand threatened to upend the budget deal by saying she would vote no. Her speech explained why.
From the New York Times:
Pelosi read heart-rending testimonies from Dreamers who had written their representatives about their lives. There was Andrea Seabra, who is serving in the Air Force, and whose father was a member of the Peruvian Air Force. There was Carlos Gonzalez, who once worked as an aide to former Representative Michael M. Honda, Democrat of California. And there was Al Okere, whose father was killed by the Nigerian police after articles he wrote criticizing the Nigerian government appeared in a newspaper.
Twitter was impressed and outraged.
Nancy Pelosi is 77 years old.
She was standing for 8 hours. In heels.
Trump has to take a golf cart for a 700 yard walk…#GoNancyGo
— #Resist (@LaChristie) February 8, 2018
Her critics took over the #GoNancyGo hashtag to attack her for not standing during President Trump’s State of the Union, or failing to stand up in memory of Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman murdered by an undocumented immigrant, a case that didn’t involve any DACA recipient.
And she persisted some more. From the LA Times:
She read Bible passages. She read comments from young people asking for immigration action along with her own commentary as if she were having a direct conversation with the Dreamers: “You are so right, Josephine,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s speechifying showed she is serious about shutting down the government to protect the Dreamers. She has said she supports the substance of Schumer’s budget deal, but wants to extract an explicit promise from House Speaker Paul Ryan that he’ll bring a Dreamer bill to the floor soon, similar to the promise Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made as part of a deal to end the brief government shutdown in January.
Without that commitment, Pelosi says she will vote no on the budget deal. Ryan needs Democrats’ help to pass the spending bill because his conservative wing, including the Freedom Caucus, is balking. The question now is, how many House Democrats are as serious as Nancy Pelosi is about supporting the Dreamers.
“We have a moral responsibility to act now,” she said.
Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press).