Pelosi surpasses four hours in immigration speech on House floor
ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the floor Wednesday morning to address the emerging bipartisan federal spending deal in the Senate, pointing to several “Democrat priorities” included in the deal but drawing the line over the lack of a solution for so-called Dreamers whose status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) is in jeopardy after March 5.
Pelosi announced she and a “large number” of House Democrats will oppose any deal unless Speaker Paul Ryan commits to a future open immigration debate, complaining House Democrats are second-class members of Congress without a commitment from Ryan.
As minority leader, Pelosi exercised her power to speak uninterrupted on the House floor for more than four hours – a speech that continued late Wednesday morning and focused almost entirely on Dreamers. She read letters from Dreamers to members of Congress describing how the DACA policy helped them pursue their education or apply for jobs. Pelosi said she wanted their stories to be part of the Congressional record.
“We want to be sure that the public record of the Congress of the United States forever more will reflect the stories of their great contribution to America in the hopes that those stories will move the Speaker of the House to give us a vote,” Pelosi said.
One of the letters Pelosi read was from Gladys Klamka from Phillipsburg, N.J. Klamka said her parents brought her to the United States from Mexico when she was two years old and that they would have put her up for adoption if they stayed in Mexico. When she was four years old, she wrote, she was sexually molested by a 16-year-old boy but her parents didn’t report it because they were afraid of being deported. She applied for DACA status in 2012 and said she now works in health care.
“After election day I wondered if this dream would soon end, it’s been a hard reality check that privileges could be taken away,” Pelosi read from Klamka’s letter.
Pelosi read another letter from Jirayut New Latthivongskorn who said his parents brought him to the U.S. from Thailand when he was nine years old. Pelosi said he worked 30 hours a week at his family’s restaurant while he was in high school and still graduated with a 4.3 grade point average. He went to the University of California – Berkeley but had to deny a scholarship that would have covered most of his tuition because of his immigration status.
The DACA program was established in 2012 just a month after Latthivongskorn graduated from college with degrees in molecular and cellular biology, Pelosi said. In 2014 he began medical school at the University of California San Francisco where he volunteers at a homeless clinic and started a network for Dreamers pursuing jobs in health care. He was the school’s first undocumented student and was included in Forbes magazine’s 2017 “30 Under 30” list, according to the UCSF website.
“Will America be a stronger country if we deport him and others like him? Will we be a better country if we tear apart American families? Of course not, we all agree on that,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said she expects a sweeping budget deal to be unveiled today, boasting that Democrats secured “hundreds of billions” of dollars for their legislative priorities by extracting a dollar-for-dollar deal on defense and non-defense spending.
But she demanded Ryan match Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s commitment to the Senate to open the upper chamber for free and clear debate on immigration.
“So why can’t we have some sort of commitment on this side?” Pelosi asked Wednesday.
Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong said the speaker does intend to address immigration reform.
“Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill – one that the president supports,” Strong said in a statement.
Pelosi pointed to a bipartisan bill by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and said Ryan should start with that bill, “and any other bills he believes should be considered” through the Queen of the Hill process, where the measure with most votes becomes the prevailing bill to reconcile with what whatever immigration solution the Senate settles upon.
“Why should we be treated in such a humiliating way when the Republican Senate leader has given that opportunity in a bipartisan way to his membership?” Pelosi said. “Without that commitment from Speaker Ryan, this package does not have my support nor does it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus.”
“What are you afraid of?” Pelosi said, addressing Ryan. “Give us a vote. Let the House work its will.”
After her speech, the House is expected to recess subject to the call of the chair while lawmakers wait for the Senate to act on the continuing resolution. No votes are expected this morning in the House of Representatives, but the GOP leadership has advised that a vote series should be expected later today.
The Senate is expected to unveil a package that would raise caps on military and domestic spending, increase the debt limit, provide additional funding for disaster relief and fund community health centers. A Senate vote on the measure could occur as soon as Wednesday, though leaders have not yet scheduled any floor activity.
House Democrats changed plans for their scheduled retreat in Cambridge, Md. this week to stay in D.C. and be on hand for the debate.
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