As many House Democrats mull skipping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled joint address to Congress next month, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “as of now” plans to attend.
“I’m seriously considering going,” the California Democrat told reporters at her weekly news conference Thursday morning. “I am. As of now it is my intention to go.” “It is still my hope that the event will not take place,” she continued. “There’s serious unease.”
Pelosi also said she would not be urging colleagues one way or the other in regards to their attendance: “Members will go or don’t go, as members usually go or don’t go” to joint sessions of Congress featuring any head of state, controversial or not.
Speaker John A. Boehner created an exceedingly uncomfortable and politically fraught scenario for Democrats when he invited Netanyahu to deliver remarks to Congress — without consultation with the other party or even with the White House.
The invitation was extended as President Barack Obama said he would veto legislation imposing sanctions on Iran, which most Republicans — and many Democrats, too — believe are necessary to keep the country from developing nuclear weapons that could one day pose an existential threat to Israel.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is set to visit Capitol Hill not only two weeks before Israeli elections, but as top officials try to negotiate an agreement under which Iran would abandon its nuclear program. The expectation is that he will specifically lobby on behalf of sanctions.
Pelosi has consistently called the invitation “inappropriate” on multiple levels, and suggested Thursday that perhaps the policy on organizing joint sessions of Congress should be revisited: “It should not be a political arena two weeks before the election.
“I think going forward in this way, the way this conversation is taking so much energy and is really stressful, is really beneath the dignity of the challenge that we have: Stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, respecting America’s approach to this.”
Pelosi also provided a readout from yesterday’s meeting among a small group of House Democrats with Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Israeli parliament, which she described as “a meeting in friendship.
“A meeting, I would say, marked by sadness on my part,” Pelosi continued, “very sad that it has come to this, but hopefully there will be a path out of the situation that we are going in.”
At his own press conference following Pelosi’s, Boehner said he had no regrets about his decision to bring the prime minister to the Congress.
“He has a message the American people need to hear,” said the Ohio Republican of Netanyahu, “and I think he’s the perfect person to deliver it.”
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