House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held the floor for the length of a work day on Wednesday, and it was the most telling example of a lawmaker doing their job that the American public has seen for some time now. For eight hours and seven minutes, Pelosi would not allow her voice to be silenced and, in doing so, allowed the voice of 700,000 DACA recipients to be heard within the chamber.
According to the New York Times, Pelosi’s speech broke a record for the House’s longest continuous speech, supplanting the five hour and fifteen minute record set in 1909 by Rep. Champ Clark. While Clark’s marathon focused on tariff overhaul, Pelosi used her time to argue for a vote on immigration reform. The move was one of few that she could utilize in order to force an issue in the House that the Senate continues to debate and negotiate over. While McConnell has scheduled a debate around DACA protections for next week in the Senate, the House has no plans to hold a similar debate.
Pelosi forced the debate on the chamber by making them listen to stories of Dreamers thriving within the country. Instead of the debased image the White House employs to generalize illegal immigrants, she read testimonials from a former congressional aide, a woman serving in the Air Force and a man whose father faced violence in response to his free expression. All of these archetypes are among the many that lawmakers employ to describe Americans, but these people were Dreamers—the people that so many people want to divorce from the national debate and string along for an indeterminate amount of time.
The “DACA-buster” refused to allow those people and their stories to fade as Congress prepares to vote Thursday on a long-term budget deal that has become ingrained with the immigration debate. As Senate Dems try to negotiate both issues separately, Pelosi stood defiant, ready to vote no on the budget plan after her party folded during the last government shutdown. Facing backlash from immigrants’ rights groups and constituents alike, the Democrats needed someone to display their ability to not fold. While it’s unclear currently whether enough of her party will take a similar stance and force the issue as well, Pelosi showed the country that some within the party are still willing to fight.
Speaker Paul Ryan still maintains that he will not hold a debate or vote on immigration reform within the House unless the discussed plan is approved by the president. A spokesperson reiterated that point to the New York Times, saying, “Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly state we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill—one that the president supports.” That tune could change if the budget plan doesn’t pass today, though.
Regardless, Pelosi’s actions on the floor showed that Democrats are still capable of resistance, and sometimes the masses just need a little reassurance in order to carry on to the next step of the fight.