politics

Pelosi’s Marathon Speech on Immigration Breaks 1909 House Record

Updated on

Nancy Pelosi

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave the longest House floor speech since at least 1909 on Wednesday, talking for more than eight hours to demand a vote on legislation to protect young immigrants from deportation.

Pelosi, a California Democrat who served as House speaker from 2007 to 2011, took the House floor shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday and wrapped up her speech after 6 p.m.

Breaking the record was "not my goal today," said Pelosi, 77, as she read stories and letters about the academic, humanitarian and other accomplishments by undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and known as dreamers.

"We have so many testimonies, real testimony in the words of the dreamers, as I said, the most eloquent of all," Pelosi said. "I still have more," she said later as she was completing her speech to applause by fellow Democrats in the chamber.

Deporting the dreamers -- as may occur under President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the Obama-era protections they had -- would be a great loss to the country, said Pelosi, who stood in high heels throughout her speech.

"We want to send these people back, this talent, this achievement?" Pelosi said. "I don’t think so. We have to make it happen. I have confidence."

The last speech that came close was in 1909, according to historical records. Representative Champ Clark of Missouri held the floor for 5 hours and 15 minutes to speak against a tariff bill, according to newspaper accounts.

Republican leader John Boehner made news in 2009 when he spoke for more than an hour against a climate change bill.

Leadership Minute

Unlike in the Senate, where there is a tradition of unlimited debate, speeches in the House are normally limited to a certain number of minutes. Pelosi and Boehner each made use of a House rule that allows leaders to have an open-ended "leadership minute."

Pelosi was demanding that Speaker Paul Ryan make a commitment to bring an immigration bill to the floor under an open amendment process as a precondition for her supporting a $300 billion spending deal they both helped negotiate.

"Give us a chance to have a vote on the floor," she said.

Ryan has said he will only bring up a bill that Trump supports.

(Updates with Pelosi completing speech in first paragraph.)
    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE