WASHINGTON >> Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, took the House floor at 10:04 a.m. Eastern today, intent on speaking about the young unauthorized immigrants known as Dreamers.
Eight hours and seven minutes later, she quit talking.
Her marathon monologue — highly unusual for the House, which has no equivalent to the Senate filibuster — appears to have set the record for the longest continuous speech in the chamber, dating to at least 1909, according to the House historian.
It also demonstrated, yet again, why Pelosi, 77, of California, remains one of the most enduring — and to many, infuriating — figures in Washington.
“I am reminded that there are members who come to this great chamber to make speeches, and there are those who come to make laws,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said when Pelosi wrapped up.
Pelosi’s speech came as Republicans were scrambling to pass legislation to keep the government open. A short-term funding bill expires at midnight Thursday.
Pelosi has said she will not vote for the measure. She was protesting its lack of protection for the Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children and have been shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, an Obama-era initiative that President Donald Trump has suspended.
An estimated 690,000 young unauthorized immigrants have been protected under DACA, and roughly 1.1 million more are eligible but did not apply. When Trump suspended the program in September, he gave Congress six months to come up with a replacement. Democrats and their allies had hoped to use the must-pass spending bill to carry legislation to protect the Dreamers.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has promised an open debate in the Senate on immigration legislation, with senators of both parties allowed to offer amendments, if a deal is not reached by Thursday. Pelosi is calling on Speaker Paul Ryan to make a similar commitment in the House.
But a spokeswoman for Ryan suggested he had no intention of conducting a freewheeling House debate. “Speaker Ryan has already repeatedly stated we intend to do a DACA and immigration reform bill — one that the president supports,” she said.
Immigrants’ rights advocates, meanwhile, are furious — not only with Republicans but also with Democrats for failing to exercise their leverage to ensure that the Dreamers would not be left behind.