House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi began talking shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday. Then she kept talking.
The California Democrat sought the same assurances Democrats have gotten in the Senate — the promise of debate on an immigration bill that decides the fate of “dreamers.”
The 77-year-old read multiple personal stories from dreamers and cited Bible passages. At one point, she lamented that she didn’t have a rosary, so Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) gave her one. Pelosi read passages from the Gospel of Matthew found for her by Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), a former Jesuit missionary.
Pelosi ended her eight-hour marathon speech shortly after 6 p.m. She delivered her remarks entirely standing, forbidden from sitting down or taking a restroom break, taking advantage of a rule that allows only top party leaders the special right to speak as long as they want.
Pelosi began her marathon speech by saying that she would lead opposition to a broad two-year budget agreement that includes several Democratic priorities but does not address immigration. Democrats’ support is often needed to pass spending bills in the face of opposition from fiscal conservatives.
As she spoke at 3:04 p.m., Pelosi wore four-inch heels, aides said. She had taken just a few sips of water and had unwrapped a mint left by Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.), but she had yet to eat it.
At least six floor aides and 18 Democratic lawmakers sat around her, including Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
“I have no intention of yielding back,” Pelosi said at 3:41 p.m. Eastern as she neared the six-hour mark of her ongoing remarks.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to expire March 5 — a deadline President Trump set in September that has sparked months of debate about how to allow dreamers to stay in the country and make other changes to immigration policy and border security programs that Trump and Republicans want.
But Pelosi’s 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 dreamers.
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 decided to give her remarks late Tuesday night and gave a heads up to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), aides said. The next morning, she called her aides on her drive to work. She 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.
But while Pelosi spoke, Schumer and other Senate leaders announced an agreement that would add about $400 billion in federal spending over the next two years, delivering the military funding boost Trump demanded alongside the increase in domestic programs that Democrats sought. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has guaranteed a vote on an immigration bill that addresses DACA.
“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.
The Office of the House Historian confirmed Wednesday that Pelosi had delivered the longest-continuous speech in House history, dating back to at least 1909, when then-Rep. Champ Clark (D-Mo.) delivered five hours and 15 minutes of remarks against a tariff overhaul being debated at the time. But Clark’s speech was repeatedly interrupted by his colleagues; Pelosi held the floor the entire time with no interruption.