US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has staged a record-breaking, eight-hour speech, taking in Pope Francis and the Bible in a bid to try and force a vote on the Dreamers program.
Ms Pelosi’s marathon filibuster eclipsed the previous record, held by Republican Champ Clark, who delivered a five-hour, 15-minute speech about tariff reform in 1909.
The office of the House historian confirmed it was the longest continuous speech in the chamber on record.
Forgoing any breaks, Ms Pelosi spent much of the rare talkathon reading personal letters from the young immigrants whose temporary protection from deportation is set to expire next month.
The California Democrat quoted from the Bible and Pope Francis as Democrats took turns sitting behind her in support.
Her remarks seemed partly aimed at the liberal wing of her own party, which has been left seething after Senate Democrats cut a budget deal with Republicans that could quickly steal the momentum behind the effort to resolve the Dreamers’ plight.
The wide-ranging budget accord says nothing about renewing the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, called DACA, which temporarily shields Dreamers — hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country as children and living here illegally — from deportation.
President Donald Trump has moved to annul DACA.
Ms Pelosi said she would oppose the budget deal unless GOP leaders agreed to hold a House vote on helping the Dreamers.
But top Democrats said they weren’t corralling rank-and-file representatives to oppose the budget pact, leading some of the party’s immigration advocates to question the forcefulness of her opposition.
“I’m going to take everything she says at face value,” said Democrat Luis Gutierrez. “And then hopefully tomorrow she will validate that trust by stopping us from voting for it. If she doesn’t, then it was a nice speech.”
The performance had no immediate impact on Republican leaders who have not agreed to a vote.
While she spoke on the House floor, immigration activists rallied in Washington and threatened political retribution against the congressional Democrats who abandoned the strategy of demanding that a budget deal be paired with an immigration deal.
Ms Pelosi started her remarks about 10:00am (local time) and yielded the floor at 6:11pm.
Under chamber rules, the speaker, majority leader and minority leader can speak for unlimited amounts of time.