Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee and leading voice in the House, expressed concerns about attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress next month.
“I haven’t made up my mind but I do believe that it was a huge mistake for Speaker Boehner to extend this invitation unilaterally without consulting with the White House or the Democrats in Congress,” Van Hollen told NewsChannel 8 on Tuesday. “I think it was a mistake for the prime minister to accept but I’ll be looking at whether attending is an appropriate way to indicate the fact that I didn’t think this was a good idea or not.”
According to The Hill’s “Whip List” of Democrats skipping Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, James Clyburn of South Carolina, Keith Ellison of Minnesta, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Barbara Lee of California, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Jim McDermott of Washington, Gregory Meeks of New York, John Lewis of Georgia, Charlie Rangel of New York and D.C.’s Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton plan to not attend.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy joined the opposition as the first senators planning to skip Netanyahu’s March 3 address.
President Obama reiterated on Monday that he does not plan to meet with Netanyahu.
“With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu as I’ve said before, I talk to him all of the time. Our teams constantly coordinate. We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections,” Obama said during a joint press conference Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks from an election, she probably wouldn’t have received an invitation to the White House and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one.”
While Obama dismisses a meeting with Netanyahu due to his close election, the president met with British Prime Minister David Cameron last month. The Conservative leader’s forthcoming election is in May. In a White House press conference, Obama described Cameron as “one of my closest and most trusted partners in the world.” London’s “Daily Telegraph” newspaper boasted the visit as a “huge pre-election boost to the prime minister.”
Another example of a leader visiting Washington before an election includes Hamid Karzai speaking before a joint meeting of Congress in June 2004, leading up to his presidential election in Afghanistan in October of that year.