Pelosi sets House record with eight-hour speech backing DACA

by Phil McCausland /  / Updated 

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made history on Wednesday by delivering an eight-hour speech in protest of Speaker Paul Ryan’s unwillingness to commit to legislation that would protect "Dreamers."

And Pelosi, 77, a California Democrat, did it all while standing in four-inch heels, to the amazement of admirers on Twitter, and without taking a bathroom break. She broke a 109-year-old House record for longest speech from the floor by nearly three hours.

“I don’t know when we would have another opportunity that matches today for us to just get a simple commitment from the speaker of the House that he would give us a vote,” she said. “There is no guarantee — have the debate, people will weigh in, they will make their voices heard — Congress again will work its will, but do not diminish this House of Representatives.”

Pelosi called on Ryan to commit to a vote on an immigration bill, just as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had in the Senate. Pelosi said she would oppose a budget caps deal if she did not receive a firm promise and shared moving statements from recipients of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, or DACA, President Barack Obama's initiative that allowed people brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country.

Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate came to a bipartisan long-term spending deal on Wednesday that would avoid a government shutdown and provide the largest increase in spending since the mandatory budget caps were put in place in 2011.

Related: Kelly's 'lazy' Dreamer comment is racist and obscures truth on DACA numbers, critics say

Ryan, R-Wis., said earlier in the day — soon after Pelosi began speaking — that he would only back a bill that would “support what the president supports.”

“President Trump made a very serious and sincere offer of goodwill with the reforms that he sent to the Hill,” Ryan said. “That is what we should be working off of. Those are the bipartisan negotiations that the majority leader is conducting on our behalf. So we’re not going to bring immigration legislation through that the president doesn’t support.”

Although Pelosi threatened to pull her support, it is unlikely that it would have an effect on the outcome of the budget deal.

Pelosi began speaking shortly after 10 a.m. ET and concluded her remarks shortly after 6:10 p.m. ET. The idea to give a marathon speech was her own, said her deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill.

The speech was the longest in the House since at least 1909, according to official House historian Matthew Wasniewski, who said it surpassed the previous longest and continuous oral address, delivered by Rep. Champ Clark, a Missouri Democrat who spoke on the floor for five hours and 15 minutes in opposition of a tariff overhaul.

Related: White House aide Rob Porter resigns amid allegations of domestic abuse

Yet Pelosi's speech was not a filibuster, a practice that ended in the House in 1841 but continues in the Senate. Instead, House rules say that the speaker, majority leader and minority leader may speak as long as they like during debate.

Though leaders are only allowed one minute, the additional time is referred to as “magic minutes” because they do not count against the speakers.

The last time someone pursued a similar tactic was in 2009, when the minority leader at the time, John Boehner, extended his allowed two minutes to more than an hour as he read from a 300-page amendment to climate-change legislation.

At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chided Pelosi as she moved through hour three.

“I think we've made clear that the budget deal should be a budget deal, and that members of Congress, like Nancy Pelosi, should not hold our military hostage over a separate issue,” Sanders told reporters. “We've laid out what we would like to see in immigration legislation, and I think it's something that Nancy Pelosi should support.”

But Pelosi received support from her fellow Democrats, who gave her a standing ovation when she finished speaking. Pelosi also gave out high-fives after surrendering her time to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

Pelosi also earned a great amount of praise online, as her speech began trending as “#DACAbuster” on Twitter.

CORRECTION (Feb. 7, 2018, 10:05 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the party affiliation of Rep. Maxine Waters of California. She is a Democrat, not a Republican.

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