On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave what might be the longest speech in the history of the chamber. She gave it in opposition to a crucial budget bill because it lacks protections for young undocumented immigrants. But on Thursday, Pelosi did a strange thing: she said that, while she wouldn’t vote for the bill at hand, she wasn’t formally urging members of her party to follow suit—even though they could potentially sink it.
“I’m pleased with the product, I’m not pleased with the process,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday, later adding she plans to vote against the bill but confirmed she isn’t formally whipping against it. “I’m just telling people why I’m voting the way I’m voting.”
This is an odd thing for the leader of a political party, even one in the minority, to say. Whipping votes—and bullying any member of the party who dares vote against the consensus—is part of Pelosi’s job description.
The legislation, another short-term spending bill which will keep the federal government’s lights on until March 23, was unveiled just before midnight last night. It contains proposed funding bumps for nearly every corner of the government, but has no provisions for recipients of the Obama-era DACA program, whose lives have been thrown into chaos by President Trump’s announcement that he would end it. Conservative Republicans are opposing the bill, meaning that Speaker Paul Ryan needs Democratic votes to pass it. And it appears that, despite her dramatic show of opposition, Pelosi is prepared to give him those votes.
Some people insisted that the Democrats would actually end up in a better position by joining Republicans in voting to end the government shutdown in January without a DACA fix. Democrats promised they would not sell out DACA recipients again.
Now, even with Pelosi’s emotional eight-hour speech—in HEELS, many women were quick to point out—we’re no closer to getting that DACA fix. What will likely happen next is that a good many members of her party will also offer impassioned speeches about DACA and then vote to pass this bill, once again forfeiting the only political edge they have with the hope that Republicans will play fair down the road.
If you’re truly interested in helping the DACA recipients who want to stay in this country, now’s the time to use any influence you’ve got left.