By Mike Lillis - 08/07/14 05:03 PM EDT
House GOP leaders are hoping to capitalize — literally — on last week's heated exchange between Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a rank-and-file Republican on the chamber floor.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) launched a fundraising campaign Thursday blaming Pelosi for the dust-up with Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) over immigration policy.
"Last week, I was debating Democrats on the House Floor about securing the border and dealing with the immigration crisis when Nancy Pelosi ran across the chamber, wagging her finger, telling me I was wrong and calling me an 'insignificant person,' " Marino says.
Marino then warns that, unless GOP donors fight back, Pelosi could regain her Speaker's gavel after November's elections.
"And yes, in November, Nancy Pelosi is hoping to become Speaker of the House again," he says. "I hope you can see where I’m going with this. We cannot let the House fall."
The campaign is an early indication that the Republicans will try to use Pelosi's national prominence — and her wild unpopularity among GOP voters — to rally their conservative base ahead of November's midterm elections.
"[A]s the official committee in charge of keeping Pelosi out of power we need your help," the NRCC email warns.
Amid Friday's debate on emergency funding for the southern border, Marino suggested that Pelosi and other Democratic leaders were to blame for the current child-migrant crisis because they didn't enact immigration reform legislation during her time as Speaker.
“They knew this problem existed,” Marino said. “They didn’t have the strength to go after it back then, but ... are trying to make a political issue out of it now.”
The accusation was not overlooked by Pelosi, who responded off the microphone in the start of a highly unusual exchange in which both sides seemed to break House protocol.
Addressing Pelosi directly, Marino urged her to investigate the subject.
“I did the research on it," he said. "You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader."
When Marino left the podium, Pelosi then crossed to the Republican side of the chamber to confront him directly. With a finger wagging, she followed him up the aisle, at one point calling him "insignificant," according to several Democrats on the floor at the time.
Pelosi spokeswoman Evangeline George said afterward that the minority leader simply wanted to highlight the work Democrats have done to pass the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform.
"What have Republicans done?" George asked.
Marino told reporters afterward that he was making a political statement, not attacking Pelosi personally.
"I don't want to make a big deal out of it," he said. "It was nothing personal."
There is disagreement between the two about what was said between them when they spoke briefly on the chamber floor shortly after the exchange. Marino's office told Fox News that he did not apologize; George, though, had a different account.
"Pelosi accepted the Congressman's apology," she said.