Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi made history in early February with a more than 8-hour monologue on the House floor to protest the lack of Dreamer protections as legislators work to pass another short-term spending bill. Rep. Pelosi plans to follow up her words– spoken while wearing 4-inch heels for the duration– with a vote against the spending measure.
The strong association between the budget and immigration reform legislation ties to President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in March. While the president supports an extension and an expansion of DACA, he insists codifying DACA tie to massive investments to boost border security and enforcement. Other elements of the president’s immigration agenda include an end to chain migration practices and a shift to a much more merit-based system.
Specifically, Rep. Pelosi says her protest centers of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s refusal to offer assurances of an open debate around immigration legislation along with the opportunity for lawmakers to introduce amendments, according to The New York Times. Commitments on the open debate and amendment issues already exist on the Senate side of the legislature.
“Our basic request is to honor the House of Representatives, give us a vote on the floor,” Pelosi said in the wrap up to the epic speech. Earlier in the day, Pelosi read emotional testimonials from Democratic constituents.
Representatives for Speaker Ryan “suggested he had no intention of conducting a freewheeling House debate,” according to reporting from The New York Times.
“Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill– one that the president supports,” a representative from the speaker’s office said.
While immigration legislation carries a substantial political charge all across the country, the issue becomes exponentially more explosive in Minority Leader Pelosi ‘s home state of California. Maintaining a closer proximity to constituents than their federal counterparts in Washington D.C., state lawmakers in Sacramento routinely approach immigration from a much more liberal perspective than the rules on the books in much of the rest of the country. In other words, Minority Leader Pelosi’s efforts require balancing representing the interests of local constituents while also looking out for Democratic Party interests in terms building the team on her side of the aisle.
At the same time, Pelosi’s political savvy arguably slipped a notch or two since President Trump took occupancy in the Oval Office last year. Most recently, President Trump’s tax reform plan passed as have other stopgap spending measures. With cooperation on these matters, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders failed to seek at least some concessions in terms of DACA and other overarching immigration issues.
“We want a negotiated solution that’s part of the spending bill, not a vague promise of floor action after it,” says Frank Sharry, executive director of immigrant rights group America’s Voice. “We’re disappointed that a deal was cut without us, and we’re on the outside looking in, and we’re going to ask Democrats and Republicans who care about Dreamer to vote no.”