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Pelosi immigration speech overshadows Democratic retreat

Simone Pathé, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- This week's Democratic retreat was supposed to be an opportunity for House Democrats to fine-tune their message ahead of the November midterm elections.

But House Democrats' most prominent messenger -- and Republicans' favorite boogeywoman -- stole the spotlight, without even attending the major sessions of the opening day of the retreat.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor Wednesday to tell the stories of "Dreamers," undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, and didn't stop for eight hours.

She said she wouldn't support a two-year budget deal brokered in the Senate without a commitment from Speaker Paul D. Ryan to consider immigration legislation that would address the legal status of Dreamers. She broke the record for the longest-ever floor speech.

With the prospect of another government shutdown looming, House Democrats late on Tuesday moved their annual retreat from Cambridge, Maryland, to the Capitol complex. The party's top brass leaned into the location change on Wednesday, blaming it on Republicans' inability to govern and using it to argue that the American people should entrust them with the majority.

"We're here today because Republicans continue to show they cannot lead this country," Caucus Vice Chairwoman Linda T. Sanchez said at the retreat's opening press conference.

It felt more like a regular leadership press event, held in a familiar Capitol Hill location, except that the party's top two leaders, Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, weren't there.

At that point, Pelosi had been holding the floor for nearly four hours. The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly seized on Pelosi's speech, calling her "the gift that keeps on giving for the NRCC."

"I can only say one thing: go, Nancy, go," NRCC communications director Matt Gorman said in a statement.

Republicans have pounced on Pelosi's comments about the benefits of the tax law representing "crumbs" to the average American. Footage of the minority leader referring to the tax plan as "crumbs" or "Armageddon" have become ubiquitous in every press release and ad touting the GOP tax plan.

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