On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi set records as she gave an eight-hour floor speech protesting the bipartisan deal that funded the federal government. Despite Ms. Pelosi’s remarkable speech, the deal that passed did not provide any protections for so-called DREAMers by putting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program which allows undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children to stay and work in the United States, into law.
When the government shut down the first time, politicians passed a three-week funding bill under the premise that the next spending bill would be longer term and would include a deal on the immigration debate. That, of course, was not the case, as the two-year budget deal that went into effect in the morning hours of February 9th did not include anything on immigration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that immigration will be the discussion on the floor next week, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan promised to work on an immigration bill before DACA is set to expire on March 5th.
VERDICT: It is worrisome that immigration has yet again been pushed off. Democrats allowed the first government shutdown to end signaling that immigration would certainly be a part of the longer-term budget deal. That did not happen.
Although Pelosi’s speech was impressive in its length, hindsight shows us it lacked any correlated bite; the budget still passed with no movement on an immigration deal. Leader Pelosi held a closed-door meeting with House Democrats where she stated that although Democrats would hold leverage if they stood together and demanded debate on immigration legislation, she would not stop Democrats from voting their conscience. In other words, Pelosi refused to use her considerable influence to demand action on immigration.
Two things are clear: Democrats need to stop following talking points supporting DREAMers and instead act. Congress has less than a month before DACA protections are set to expire, that is unless a deal is reached in Congress. Democrats must be willing to act.
The second thing that is clear is that Democrats are in dire need of younger leadership at the top of their party. Leader Pelosi may be politically savvy, but she is out of touch with the activist base on the left; a new leadership will be needed to effectively vie for control of Congress in the coming elections.