Caleb Smith / Office of the Speaker(WASHINGTON) — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sharply criticized House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday for inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress, just two weeks before Netanyahu will stand for reelection on March 17.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate for any country, that the head of state would come here within two weeks of his own election in his own country,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
The speech will now occur on March 3, though Boehner, R-Ohio, originally invited Netanyahu to come to the Capitol on Feb. 11. The prime minister requested to delay the trip a few weeks in order to have his address coincide with a previously planned visit to Washington.
At his request, PM @Netanyahu of #Israel will now address joint mtg of Congress on March 3 so he can attend @AIPAC conference in DC.
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) January 22, 2015
The White House was not consulted ahead of time, breaking a protocol traditionally extended from the legislative leaders to the president.
Pelosi added that if building a case for sanctions against Iran is the purpose of Netanyahu’s visit “two weeks before his own election, right in the midst of our negotiations, I just don’t think it’s appropriate and helpful.”
“Is the purpose to come and talk about sanctions?” she wondered aloud. “To talk about a policy in opposition to the policy that our president has just put forth in his State of the Union address and that has been in operation for many months?”
Pelosi said that once she became the House Democratic leader, if one of the top four congressional leaders had a suggestion about a head of state to come, “that it was something that…you passed around the four top leaders.”
“There [has to be] some consensus among four,” Pelosi said, adding that the leaders would then loop the executive branch into the discussion. “It’s out of the ordinary that the speaker would decide that he would be inviting people to a joint session without any bipartisan consultation.”
“When the speaker did this, is anything a surprise around here? No,” Pelosi said. “It’s hubris to say, you know, ‘I rule; I’ll decide.’”
Meanwhile, the White House said on Thursday that President Obama will not meet with Netanyahu when he visits next month “because of the proximity to the Israeli election.”
“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country. Accordingly, the President will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress,” National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.
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