Pelosi’s marathon speech doesn’t calm Dem discontent over DACA
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi left it all on the floor after delivering a record-setting, eight-hour speech demanding a "dreamer" fix in talks to avert another government shutdown at midnight. But the House floor gambit appears to have done little to quell concerns from the liberal base and rank-and-file members.
“If I said something on the floor for eight hours and then didn’t do something about it, well, the speech is nice,” Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez said after Pelosi’s Wednesday speech, which she hoped would pressure House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a full-fledged vote to protect young illegal immigrants known as “dreamers.”
The Senate is expected on Thursday afternoon to pass, with bipartisan support, a spending bill that would lift some budget caps and include several items on Democrats’ wish list -- including money for disaster relief and to fight the opioid crisis.
The deal was forged in large part after the government shutdown last month, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed a full floor vote on immigration reform in exchange for Senate Democrats’ support of stopgap spending bill to end a three-day shutdown.
Pelosi said Thursday morning that she has yet to get the commitment she wants from Ryan, R-Wis.
“I hope the speaker will man up and decide that we in the House can have what Mitch McConnell guaranteed in the Senate,” said the California Democrat, also arguing the best House proposals should have a shot. “My simple question to the speaker is: Why can’t we have a vote? … Bring everything to the floor. ... Queen of the Hill -- the bill that gets the most votes prevails.”
She also said Thursday that she’s just seeing the text of the Senate bill but won’t vote for it.
Pelosi acknowledged that the bipartisan spending agreement “includes many Democratic priorities” but said her caucus rejected it because it “does nothing” to advance bipartisan legislation to protect "dreamers" who are losing deportation protections next month when President Trump ends the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals, or DACA, program.
“Without a commitment from Speaker Ryan comparable to the commitment from Leader McConnell, this package does not have my support,” Pelosi said.
Minutes later, Ryan seemed to give further assurance that he’ll seek a bipartisan solution and hold a floor vote.
“To anyone who doubts my intentions to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor. One the president will sign,” said Ryan, arguing he doesn’t want to risk sending a bill to President Trump that he could veto. “I am confident that we can bring a bipartisan solution to the floor that can get signed into law.”
The fate of the bill is unclear, as some fiscal conservatives in the House also oppose it. While it keeps the government running, it also showers the Pentagon and domestic programs with an extra $300 billion over the next two years.
As to Democrats' concerns, a spokeswoman for Ryan said the speaker “has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill one that the president supports” -- which is a vow that most Democrats think comes up short.
“We are simply asking for a vote,” California Rep. Linda Sanchez, vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday. “That’s all we’ve ever asked for.”
Still, Pelosi, who has been the top House Democrat for roughly 16 years, is under intense pressure from the Democrats’ liberal wing to protect the dreamers -- as well as preside over enough Democratic victories in the 2018 midterms for the party to take control of the lower chamber.
While Pelosi spoke Thursday, immigration activists rallied in Washington and threatened retribution against any congressional Democrats who abandon the strategy of demanding that a budget accord be paired with an immigration deal.
The fresh threats exposed deepening divisions within a Democratic Party struggling to address a liberal priority in Republican-controlled Washington.
"I'm not a loyal Democrat," Linda Sarsour, a controversial and far-left political activist who co-chaired the 2017 Women's March, declared during a fiery rally near Capitol Hill. "We will be joining primaries this year and we will primary Democrats who did not have the spine or the courage to stand up for our undocumented family."
The activists who filled a Washington church Wednesday, like liberal leaders nationwide, called out Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for failing to attach immigration legislation to a must-pass bill like the budget deal.
"What are they thinking? They're giving up their leverage," asked Angel Padilla, policy director for the liberal group Indivisible.
In addition, top Democrats said Wednesday that they weren't corralling rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose the budget pact, leading some of the party's immigration advocates to question the forcefulness of Pelosi’s opposition.
Among them is Gutierrez, who said he’ll be watching to see how Pelosi votes and a lot of House Democrats will vote “no,” after the Senate presumably passes the measure and sends it to the House.
Gutierrez confirmed Thursday that he will vote no.
Still, Pelosi has some measure of support within her caucus.
New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, among the House Democrats who have suggested Pelosi soon relinquish her leadership post, on Wednesday said of the minority leader’s speech: “My issue with the leadership team has nothing to do with stamina or anything else … it was a passionate expression of the fears the dreamers have … based on that, it was a good thing.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.