Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dinged Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday for not consulting with Democrats or the White House on the decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.
"It's out of order in terms of the protocol," Pelosi said of the invite. Boehner apparently did not consult with the White House on the joint session, nor did he make Democratic leadership aware of the Netanyahu invite.
Pelosi said her understanding was that the joint session — which was originally slated for Feb. 11 but has since been moved to March 3 — would take place within two weeks of the Israeli elections on March 17. "I don't think that's appropriate for any country," the California Democrat said.
Pelosi noted that, when she was speaker, she invited a number of foreign leaders at the time to speak before a joint session, including King Abdullah of Jordan, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican President Felipe Calderon. All of those speakers, she said, were invited in consultation with congressional Republicans and the White House.
Pelosi second-guessed the decision to invite the Israeli prime minister to speak to a joint session of Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
"And of course our friendship with Israel is a very strong one," she said. But Pelosi signaled that Netanyahu's speech comes at tricky time. The United States and other countries are in the midst of ongoing negotiations with Iran over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear program. Under an interim November 2013 agreement, Iran agreed to abandon much of its nuclear program in exchange for a loosening of sanctions.
But Netanyahu and many strongly pro-Israel members of Congress have pushed for a more aggressive posture from the Obama administration in the negotiations.
President Barack Obama warned again this week he would veto any congressional attempts to tighten sanctions on Iran in the midst of the negotiations.
Pelosi on Thursday said the president has a plan — "It may or may not succeed" — which had already undermined Iran. And Pelosi theorized that Congress could pass tougher sanctions at any time, prompting her to ask what would be the point of Netanyahu's speech.
"The problem is that it could seriously undermine the delicate diplomacy that is at work," she said, adding that Congress just wanted to "flex its muscle unnecessarily."
She said it pointed to a larger trend with Speaker Boehner, "a series of things of just unilateral action."
Specifically, Pelosi pointed to Boehner's decision to reduce the size of certain committees, and therefore, force Democrats to reduce their numbers on those panels. "Somehow the press has just chosen to ignore that," she said.
She made the case that committees needed diversity, and the decision to cut committee size was at the expense of that diversity.
"It's hubris," Pelosi said, seeming to lump together the speaker's Netanyahu invite with the reduced committee size. "It's ... 'I rule. I'll decide.' And without any sensitivity to the fact that an election is taking place within two weeks."
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel brushed aside Pelosi's comments.
“We trust the Prime Minister of Israel’s judgment," he told CQ Roll Call in an email. On the size of the committees he said, “The ratios are fair, given the size of our majority, and consistent with what Rep. Pelosi herself did as Speaker.”
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