Congress

Boehner, White House Clash Over Netanyahu Invite

The speaker requested in a letter Wednesday that Benjamin Netanyahu speak before a joint meeting of Congress in February.

U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) (R-OH) leaves a meeting for members of the House Republican caucus at the U.S Capitol on January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Marina Koren
Jan. 21, 2015, 4:49 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama warned Con­gress Tues­day night that he would veto any new sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion on Ir­an, say­ing it would de­rail U.S. ne­go­ti­ations in the Middle East. But John Boehner isn’t ready to sit out the battle over Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram.

“[Obama’s] ex­act mes­sage to us was: ‘Hold your fire.’ He ex­pects us to stand idly by and do noth­ing while he cuts a bad deal with Ir­an. Two words: ‘Hell no!’” the House speak­er said dur­ing his weekly press brief­ing on Wed­nes­day. “We’re go­ing to do no such thing.”

In­stead, Boehner has in­vited Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu to ad­dress Con­gress next month. He didn’t con­sult with the White House be­fore ex­tend­ing the in­vit­a­tion, and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are not happy. Press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that Boehner’s in­vit­a­tion is a breach of nor­mal dip­lo­mat­ic pro­tocol. Typ­ic­ally, a na­tion’s lead­er would con­tact the White House be­fore plan­ning a vis­it to the United States, he said. The White House heard about the in­vite from Boehner’s of­fice, not from the Is­rael­is. 

Ac­cord­ing to pool re­ports, Earn­est called the in­vite “in­ter­est­ing,” and when asked if the White House was an­noyed be­cause Boehner did not reach out first, he said, “No.”

Earn­est said the White House is re­serving judg­ment about the in­vite un­til U.S. of­fi­cials talk to their Is­raeli coun­ter­parts. Boehner’s of­fice con­firmed that Net­an­yahu has ac­cep­ted, and will give a speech to a joint ses­sion of Con­gress on Feb. 11. The date is sig­ni­fic­ant: It’s the 36th an­niversary of the Ir­a­ni­an Re­volu­tion.

The Boehner de­cision may be un­pre­ced­en­ted, es­pe­cially if the big­ger breach of pro­tocol is not that the White House didn’t know, but that the White House wasn’t in­volved in the in­vit­a­tion.

However, this isn’t the first time a House speak­er has reached out to a world lead­er des­pite a White House re­quest to stay back. In April 2007, then-Speak­er Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syr­ia to meet with Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad des­pite the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ob­jec­tions. Pelosi wanted to start a dia­logue with Syr­ia, as dip­lo­mat­ic re­la­tions had broken down in the 1990s; Pres­id­ent George W. Bush re­jec­ted such ne­go­ti­ation, say­ing, “Send­ing del­eg­a­tions doesn’t work.”

The speak­er said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day that he in­vited Net­an­yahu “to ad­dress Con­gress on the grave threats rad­ic­al Is­lam and Ir­an pose to our se­cur­ity and way of life.”

A year­long ef­fort led by Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry to reach a deal with Ir­an to dis­mantle parts of its nuc­le­ar pro­gram failed in Novem­ber, for­cing the U.S. and its al­lies to de­clare a sev­en-month ex­ten­sion on ne­go­ti­ations. Re­pub­lic­ans say these kinds of con­ces­sions — and any fu­ture ones — are put­ting U.S. se­cur­ity at risk, ac­cord­ing to a House lead­er­ship aide.

Kerry said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that Net­an­yahu is “wel­come” to speak in the U.S. any time, but learn­ing of the prime min­is­ter’s next vis­it from Boehner’s of­fice was “un­usu­al,” re­ports CBS News’ Mar­garet Bren­nan.

Boehner’s in­vite adds fuel to a po­ten­tial show­down between Con­gress and the White House over Ir­an, one that could lead to the first suc­cess­ful veto over­ride of Obama’s ten­ure as pres­id­ent. Twelve Demo­crats in the Sen­ate have pre­vi­ously co­sponsored le­gis­la­tion to im­pose sanc­tions on Ir­an. If they con­tin­ue to call for sanc­tions along­side their Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues, the Sen­ate may have the two-thirds ma­jor­ity ne­ces­sary to over­ride an Obama veto.

This story has been up­dated with more in­form­a­tion.

Pres­id­ent Obama warned Con­gress Tues­day night that he would veto any new sanc­tions le­gis­la­tion on Ir­an, say­ing it would de­rail U.S. ne­go­ti­ations in the Middle East. But John Boehner isn’t ready to sit out the battle over Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram.

“[Obama’s] ex­act mes­sage to us was: ‘Hold your fire.’ He ex­pects us to stand idly by and do noth­ing while he cuts a bad deal with Ir­an. Two words: ‘Hell no!’” the House speak­er said dur­ing his weekly press brief­ing on Wed­nes­day. “We’re go­ing to do no such thing.”

In­stead, Boehner has in­vited Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu to ad­dress Con­gress next month. He didn’t con­sult with the White House be­fore ex­tend­ing the in­vit­a­tion, and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are not happy. Press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that Boehner’s in­vit­a­tion is a breach of nor­mal dip­lo­mat­ic pro­tocol. Typ­ic­ally, a na­tion’s lead­er would con­tact the White House be­fore plan­ning a vis­it to the United States, he said. The White House heard about the in­vite from Boehner’s of­fice, not from the Is­rael­is. 

Ac­cord­ing to pool re­ports, Earn­est called the in­vite “in­ter­est­ing,” and when asked if the White House was an­noyed be­cause Boehner did not reach out first, he said, “No.”

Earn­est said the White House is re­serving judg­ment about the in­vite un­til U.S. of­fi­cials talk to their Is­raeli coun­ter­parts. Boehner’s of­fice con­firmed that Net­an­yahu has ac­cep­ted, and will give a speech to a joint ses­sion of Con­gress on Feb. 11. The date is sig­ni­fic­ant: It’s the 36th an­niversary of the Ir­a­ni­an Re­volu­tion.

The Boehner de­cision may be un­pre­ced­en­ted, es­pe­cially if the big­ger breach of pro­tocol is not that the White House didn’t know, but that the White House wasn’t in­volved in the in­vit­a­tion.

However, this isn’t the first time a House speak­er has reached out to a world lead­er des­pite a White House re­quest to stay back. In April 2007, then-Speak­er Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syr­ia to meet with Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad des­pite the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ob­jec­tions. Pelosi wanted to start a dia­logue with Syr­ia, as dip­lo­mat­ic re­la­tions had broken down in the 1990s; Pres­id­ent George W. Bush re­jec­ted such ne­go­ti­ation, say­ing, “Send­ing del­eg­a­tions doesn’t work.”

The speak­er said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day that he in­vited Net­an­yahu “to ad­dress Con­gress on the grave threats rad­ic­al Is­lam and Ir­an pose to our se­cur­ity and way of life.”

A year­long ef­fort led by Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry to reach a deal with Ir­an to dis­mantle parts of its nuc­le­ar pro­gram failed in Novem­ber, for­cing the U.S. and its al­lies to de­clare a sev­en-month ex­ten­sion on ne­go­ti­ations. Re­pub­lic­ans say these kinds of con­ces­sions — and any fu­ture ones — are put­ting U.S. se­cur­ity at risk, ac­cord­ing to a House lead­er­ship aide.

Kerry said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that Net­an­yahu is “wel­come” to speak in the U.S. any time, but learn­ing of the prime min­is­ter’s next vis­it from Boehner’s of­fice was “un­usu­al,” re­ports CBS News’ Mar­garet Bren­nan.

Boehner’s in­vite adds fuel to a po­ten­tial show­down between Con­gress and the White House over Ir­an, one that could lead to the first suc­cess­ful veto over­ride of Obama’s ten­ure as pres­id­ent. Twelve Demo­crats in the Sen­ate have pre­vi­ously co­sponsored le­gis­la­tion to im­pose sanc­tions on Ir­an. If they con­tin­ue to call for sanc­tions along­side their Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues, the Sen­ate may have the two-thirds ma­jor­ity ne­ces­sary to over­ride an Obama veto.

This story has been up­dated with more in­form­a­tion.


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