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Democrats, Republicans Tour Israel Ahead of Iran Vote

Republicans, led by McCarthy, met Wednesday with Netanyahu. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee's foundation hosts a biennial trip to Israel for House Democrats and Republicans, and this August recess is no exception.  

But this year there are two notable differences. For one, this is the first time in anyone's memory that the Democratic and Republican trips overlapped, if just for a day, as Democrats were preparing to return to the U.S. and Republicans were just arriving. Lawmakers celebrated the occasion on Aug. 10 with a bipartisan tour of the Iron Dome air defense system, and the senior members of each delegation — House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — released a joint statement:

“Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of our colleagues toured an Iron Dome battery, a key pillar of Israel’s military defenses. During the summer of 2014 as Hamas indiscriminately launched rockets at civilian population centers, the Iron Dome protected innocent lives by intercepting roughly 90 percent of Hamas’s rockets. As we visited the towns of Ashkelon and Sderot near Gaza, we saw firsthand that without the Iron Dome, many more people would have lost their lives. Congress stands united with Israel, not only in support of its Iron Dome defenses, but also in preserving Israel’s security and ensuring the safety of its people. In these dangerous times, Israel can always be certain that the American people are by their side.”
"This is the first time that the Democratic and Republican trips to Israel have overlapped," Hoyer's spokeswoman, Katie Grant, told CQ Roll Call, "and the two senior members on the trip thought it important to highlight this joint visit and bipartisan support for Israel.” The political context surrounding this year's congressional trips to Israel is also significant, as a vote on President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran looms in the very near future.  

Return to Normal: Pelosi's Got Obama's Back on Iran (Video)

Pelosi enthusiastically endorsed the Iran nuclear deal Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House's top Republican and Democrat switched normal roles during the "fast-track" debate, with President Barack Obama relying on the GOP, rather than his own party, to carry his trade package across the finish line.  

But when it comes to the president's nuclear agreement with Iran, it's back to normal for Speaker John A. Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: She's backing Obama, he isn't.  

House Democrats Forced to Choose Sides in Iran Debate

The White House wants House members like Israel to get behind the Iran nuclear deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats on the fence about the White House's proposed nuclear deal with Iran will be asked next week to close ranks and get behind the president.  

With the House and Senate getting back to work on April 13 after a two-week recess, most of the legislative action is set to be in the Senate, where the Foreign Relations Committee will begin marking up its bill giving Congress power to override President Barack Obama's emerging deal to disarm Iran.  

Boehner's Travels: Speaker Shares Details on Trip

Boehner, visiting the Gaza-Israel border, in a photo from his posts on the Middle East trip. (Courtesy John A. Boehner's Office)

John A. Boehner's trip to the Middle East this week was covered extensively by the press both here  and overseas , but few news organizations offered the behind-the-scenes details the House speaker himself shared on a new blog.  

Boehner, or someone on the speaker's team writing under his name, posted four journal-style entries this week on the congressional delegation's stops in England, Jordan, Israel and Iraq. While the posts offer a rare glimpse into life on the CODEL, they also represent an increasing trend for politicians: Cutting out the middle man — the press — to deliver content straight to the voters. Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook have largely been embraced by the press and politicians.  

CODELs: Boehner to Israel, McCarthy to Tunisia, Pelosi to Asia

McCarthy and his delegation were in Tunisia before heading to Ukraine. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Not everybody gets to travel overseas during the two-week House recess  just ask Louie Gohmert .  

However, many of those lawmakers who are participating in high-profile congressional delegations, or CODELs, will come back to Capitol Hill armed with new insights into some of the biggest policy issues facing Congress this year. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is leading a delegation that will culminate in a meeting in Israel  with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who just won re-election and addressed a joint meeting of Congress earlier this month.  

Boehner 'Baffled' by Reports of Israeli Intelligence Leaks to House Members (Video)

Speaker John A. Boehner said he was "a bit shocked" by Wall Street Journal reports that Israeli officials were actively working to undermine U.S. efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy.  

In particular, Boehner said he was "baffled" by allegations Israelis were spying on closed-door talks and leaking intelligence to members of Congress.

Netanyahu Speech Lives Up to Controversial Expectations (Video)

In January, when Speaker John A. Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress, it caused the type of controversy and media attention normally reserved for a declaration of war, not a speech that's little more than a glorified press release.  

But by the time Netanyahu showed up Tuesday, the furor surrounding his address had eased somewhat, overshadowed by a battle — and capitulation  — over funding the Department of Homeland Security and blocking President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. While some Democrats said they wouldn't show up, including the vice president, most members did — so much so that it was standing room only on the House floor. Roughly 20 members didn't even get seats. Gallery tickets for the address were "hotter than fresh latkes ," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., told the New York Times.  

Nearly Two Dozen House Democrats Call for Netanyahu Delay

Waters and other progressives in the Democratic Caucus are calling for a Netanyahu postponement.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Twenty-three House Democrats have signed onto a letter calling on Speaker John A. Boehner to postpone Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled March 3 address to a joint session of Congress.  

The lawmakers argue that while they are loyal allies of Israel, the timing of the planned visit — two weeks before the Middle East nation's elections — betrays a political agenda on the part of the GOP. "The timing of this invitation and lack of coordination with the White House indicate that this is not an ordinary diplomatic visit," the members write. "Rather this appears to be an attempt to promote new sanctions legislation against Iran that could undermine critical negotiations. "At the State of the Union President Obama made it clear that he will veto new Iran sanctions legislation," the lawmakers continue. "The invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu enlists a foreign leader to influence a Presidential policy initiative. We should be able to disagree on foreign policy within our American political system and without undermining the presidency."