C-SPAN viewers were in for a surprise Tuesday when Sen. Tim Kaine rose on the Senate floor to discuss immigration legislation. The Virginia Democrat delivered his speech entirely in Spanish.
Kaine's office gave advanced warning about the language switch. And he had to officially ask permission from the Senate's presiding officer, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), which was duly granted. An English language version was included in the Congressional Record.
Kaine's speech covered the basic points outlined by other supporters of the bipartisan legislation - 13-year path-to-citizenship and no amnesty, among other provisions.
The freshman senator once was a teacher at a Jesuit school in Honduras, for which he interrupted his Harvard Law School studies. Having served as governor, lieutenant governor and Richmond mayor and city councilman over the past 19 years, he's seen the Old Dominion diversify rapidly. As of 2011, 8.2% of Virginians are Hispanic or Latino, according to Census figures. Kaine also served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee for the first two years of President Barack Obama's administration, leading party diversity efforts.
Kaine's Spanish language remarks largely drew praise on Twitter:
Ali Noorani (@anoorani ), Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum: "After so much talk about English proficiency, kind of awesome for @TimKaine to deliver his Senate floor speech on #immigration in Spanish."
National Journal's Elahe Izadi (@ElaheIzadi): "Tim Kaine's Spanish is pretty good, guys."