Nancy Pelosi Just Delivered the Longest Speech in Congress in a Century

An eight-hour, seven-minute stemwinder represents the longest speech in the House of Representatives since at least 1909.

President Donald Trump needs executive time every morning so he can come up with ways to make America great again, such as binge-watching Fox & Friends or having a Pyongyang-style military parade stop traffic throughout the nation’s capital for an entire day so he can observe the military salute him. He also needs to golf nearly twice a week — some 93 times in all since his inauguration — taking more time off on the links than the predecessor whom he criticized so mercilessly (while cheating like hell).

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, is a few years older than our easily exhausted leader, and she just spoke for eight hours and seven minutes on behalf of Dreamers, immigrants, and the legislative prospects for a path to citizenship. She did so while standing on her feet, without a break — not even water.

Or, as the Washington Post put it, “she barely took time to unwrap a mint several hours in.”

Unlike the Senate, the rules of the House don’t permit filibusters per se. Since the 1890s, members have been allotted a single minute to speak during debates. (There are 435 members in all, so giving them limitless time could easily ground the government to a halt.) But as the minority leader, Pelosi has the privilege to speak for much longer — theoretically for as long as she wants, although Speaker Paul Ryan could have intervened to cut her off. 

Perhaps aware of the “Nevertheless, she persisted” imbroglio his Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell fell into when shushing Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Ryan wisely chose to let his colleague hold the floor. The speech was directed at him, after all, as Pelosi was specifically calling for a comprehensive, bipartisan solution to the immigration debates that have befuddled three presidencies in a row. The votes are there — enough “moderate” Republicans would side with the Democratic caucus to make DACA permanent. But the House informally operates according to the “Hastert Rule,” which says a bill will only be brought to the floor if a majority of the majority (i.e., most Republicans) supports it. And enough Republicans are hardline xenophobes that that’s not going to happen, and Paul Ryan doesn’t have the courage to overrule them.

Incidentally, the Hastert Rule was named for Dennis Hastert, a former Republican Speaker of the House who sexually abused a student and paid $900,000 to cover it up. So maybe it’s time to get rid of it?

We know that many left-leaning San Franciscans harbor reservations about Pelosi. Some are valid — after eight years in the minority, it’s legitimate to weigh the merits of fresh blood in a party’s leadership — while others are unvarnished sexism. But you can hear the fatigue in Pelosi’s voice as she told one anecdote after another about young people brought to the U.S. when they were children, and exhorting her colleagues to “be on the right side of the future.” This was more than grandstanding for the sake of setting a record. Allowing Dreamers a path to citizenship is the right thing to do, period. And given the heat San Francisco has taken for being a sanctuary city, it’s reassuring to know our elected representative will take a stand — for hours, in four-inch heels.

Or, as The New York Times put it, “At one point, perhaps running out of stories, she suggested she might turn to the Bible. ‘Perhaps I should bring my rosary, blessed by the Pope,’ Ms. Pelosi said.” 

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