Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to deliver a historic speech to a joint session of Congress on March 3. Netanyahu was invited by US Congress House Speaker John Boehner to talk about the Iranian threat, and a storm of controversy has surrounded the invite since then.
The White House was furious that it was not involved in coordinating the visit and as a result, President Obama and Vice-President Biden have declared they will not be meeting with Netanyahu while the prime minister is in Washington.
In addition, numerous Congressman have announced they will skip Netanyahu’s Congress speech. As of this writing, 19 House Representatives and three Senators will skip the speech.
The following Congressmen and Senators are on the fence according to political website The Hill.
Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.)
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — “I’m troubled with the way it’s being handled by congressional leaders. It has an impact not just on us in the U.S. but our friends in Israel,” he told The Hill last week.
Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.)
Rep. Tony Cardenas (Calif.)
Rep. Yvette Clarke (N.Y.)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.) — “The speech is still several weeks out. We do not set the Congressman’s schedule that far in advance,” said press secretary Mary Petrovic.
Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) — The pro-Israel, Jewish lawmaker, told MSNBC, “I haven’t determined exactly what my position should be on that day.” Cohen signed a letter asking Boehner to postpone the speech until after the Israeli elections. He said Boehner shouldn’t have invited Netanyahu in the first place.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.)
Rep. Danny Davis (Ill.)
Mark DeSaulnier (Calif.) — “Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election,” said Betsy Arnold Marr, DeSaulnier’s chief of staff.
Rep. Alan Grayson (Fla.)
Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.) — “The Congressman is reviewing the situation and he will decide closer to the date of the speech,” said spokesman Ken Scudder.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas)
Rep. Hank Johnson (Ga.) — A member of the CBC, he said he’s hoping the speech is postponed.
Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa) — “Since the speech is still about a month away, the Congressman’s schedule hasn’t been set yet,” said communications director Joe Hand.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (Calif.) — He called the timing “inappropriate.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) — Undecided, would like speech pushed back.
Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.) — Moulton expressed frustration over the speech to The Boston Globe but would not say if he plans to attend.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (Calif.)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Colo.)
Rep. Scott Peters (Calif.) — “We don’t know what his calendar is going to look like yet,” said spokesman Michael Campbell.
Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.)
Rep. David Price
Rep. Bobby Rush (Ill.)
Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.) — Smith is “troubled” but undecided.
Rep. Paul Tonko (N.Y.)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.)
Sen. Thomas Carper (Del.)
Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) — Coons told CNN he is “concerned” by the speech’s timing.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) — She expressed worry that the speech would be “obviously political” to CNN.
Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)
Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) — “The question is not whether or not Members should attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech next month but whether we should adhere to the usual way that these invitations to address Congress are extended. And that way is to work with the President, who is Constitutionally tasked with conducting foreign policy,” she said in a statement. “I call upon Speaker Boehner to work with the President to extend this invitation.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) — King, who caucuses with Democrats, told CNN he is still deciding whether to attend.
Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.)
Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)
Contact your representative today and ask them to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. It is of utmost importance that Iran is not given the chance to develop nuclear weapons!
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Dear (Name of your representative),
Please attend Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3!
I write to you as a citizen of the United States of America, a country deeply committed to Western values and peace among nations. America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East, the State of Israel, a country that shares our values, has long been under threat of annihilation by the despotic regime in Iran.
Today, America is negotiating away the very freedoms we live for as it engages in talks with Iran over its nuclear program. If Iran gets the bomb, it will act on its threats toward Israel. But Iran won’t stop there. To them, Israel is only the “Little Satan.” America is the “Big Satan.” And America will face the Iranian threat as well.
I ask you to stand up for Israel. I implore you to stand up for America. Attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech and show the world that Iran will not get away with producing nuclear weapons in order to threaten and destroy the western world.
Please attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech!