Congress

So Far 37 Reps Are Skipping Bibi’s Speech – Is Yours?

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares for his speech to Congress next Tuesday, more and more representatives have said they won’t go. As the list of non-attendees grows that creates more political space for others not to attend. There are many good reasons not to attend from the fact that it’s a slap in the face of the President, to the fact that it’s too close to the Israeli elections to the more profound reasons: Netanyahu is there to torpedo President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran.

Click here to take action and call your member of Congress.

Representative Betty McCollum wrote a great op-ed for the Washington Post that laid our her reasons for not going. It doesn’t pull it’s punches so its worth quoting at length:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the midst of a heated reelection campaign. Yet he is traveling 5,900 miles to give a speech before a joint meeting of Congress on March 3 — just two weeks before Israelis go to the polls. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), working with Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, a former Republican political operative who renounced his U.S. citizenship, extended the invitation in a clear effort to undermine the president while the United States and its five partners engage in tough negotiations with Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons — a national security priority I strongly support.

In other words, the speaker of the House has provided the Israeli prime minister with a global platform to both attack our president and deliver a campaign message to voters at home.

Former U.S. senator Joseph I. Lieberman said in a Post op-ed this week that all members of Congress should attend the speech because, as other world leaders have received respectful attention, “so too does the prime minister of Israel deserve to be listened to respectfully.” Respect is important, but it should be reciprocal between allies. Boehner and Dermer ignored diplomatic protocol by failing to inform the White House of the Netanyahu invitation.

“To think about going behind the back of a friendly country’s administration and working out this kind of arrangement with the parliament or the Congress — it’s unheard of,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. Such an unprecedented lack of respect toward a U.S. president has not gone unnoticed in Israel, either. As Oudeh Basharat, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noted, “Greater respect is even accorded to banana republics.”

The last time Netanyahu addressed Congress, in 2011, he thanked President Obama for his “steadfast commitment to Israel’s security” and told the world that “time is running out” on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — a position I expect will be repeated in next week’s speech. Footage from that speech was used by the Likud Party for campaign commercials when Netanyahu last faced Israeli voters. Using video from the floor of the U.S. House for campaign purposes is prohibited for members of Congress — apparently except when they play extras in a commercial promoting Netanyahu.

Below is intelligence we have about who isn’t going to the speech. Many more members of Congress are still on the fence.  There’s still time to put a call into Congress now through the end of Monday March 2. The speech is on Tuesday March 3. Whatever happens peace advocates and our allies have already on a victory by making this speech controversial and not letting Netanyahu bring his war friendly message to D.C. without a counterpoint.

Members of Congress who have stated they won’t go to the speech. Feel free to add intelligence you have in the comments (with links if possible).

SENATE – 5 members

Sen Martin Heinrich (N.M.)

Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii)

HOUSE – 32 members

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.)

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.)

Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.)

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.)

Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.)

Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.)

Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.)

Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.)

Rep. Marcia Fudge (Ohio)

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.)

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas)

Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.)

Rep. John Lewis (Ga.)

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio)

Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.)

Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.)

Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.)

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas)

Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine)

Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.)

Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.)

Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.)

Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.)

Rep. Danny Davis (Ill.)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.)

Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.)

Rep. Kathleen Clark (Mass.)

Rep. William Lacy Clay (Mo.)

Note, as many of you figured out the image above of the Prime Minister is a photoshop fake. It’s a visual joke about his actual “cartoon bomb” drawing that he shared with the UN and that Jon Stewart compared to Colin Powell’s notorious pre-Iraq war speech.

4 replies »

  1. All members of Congress should go to the speech to see what Netanyahu has to say.

    Congressmen or women who are concerned about peace should stop arming belligerents overthrowing countries.

  2. Obama won’t meet with the Prime Minister of Israel because it is too close to the Israeli elections but is allowing democratic operatives to go to Israel ad try to influence the elections there.
    Just another hypocrisy of our president.

  3. I’m not following your point Roy. Democratic “operatives” with election skills are involved in many elections across the world -as are Republican operatives. I know pollsters. media people, etc. from both parties who work on elections. That’s their right in their working life. That’s totally different than Congress or the President who are not independant operatives (i.e. campaign professionals) but who have a constitutional role of representing the country itself. After all the President is not the boss of Democratic campaign consultants (thank god) he has a different role.

  4. Thanks for your comment Renita. Members of Congress are indeed listening to Netanyahu. He gave a very well covered speech today at the AIPAC conference. He is a frequent guest on U.S. political shows more than any other leader of another country as far as I can tell. And they can read and watch his speech without giving affirmation to Boehner’s complete disregard for bi-partisan protocol. Members of Congress will hear Netanyahu but they don’t have to privilege what he is saying. The problem is that this speech — it’s timing and purpose — is inappropriate. It’s a free campaign commercial and a commercial against diplomacy that many other world leaders support. The conservative Prime MInister of the U.K. is not being invited to speak, nor the leaders of other allies like France, Germany, and the E.U. as a whole. Their views are not being given the same featuring because they all support diplomacy. The fix is in and the goal is to pretend that there is massive opposition to Obama’s diplomacy when most of the world supports it. And that’s why people should boycott.

    We agree that the U.S. should stop arming belligerents who use those weapons to violate human rights. Something we definitely have to push for.

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