Top Senate Democrat: Netanyahu speech causing backlash on new Iran sanctions

Reid says Netanyahu has assured him congressional address will be as nonpartisan as possible.

January 30, 2015 13:26
1 minute read.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) walks from the Democratic caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming address to Congress, slated for March 3, has caused Democratic senators to back away from their support for new sanctions on Iran, US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told the Israeli premier in a phone conversation.

According to the New York Times, the senior Democrat in the Senate had a "candid" talk with Netanyahu, in which he said he thought US Speaker of the House John Boehner was wrong to invite the premier to Washington without the Obama administration's approval.

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While Reid refrained from advising Netanyahu "not to come" to Washington – "I wouldn’t do that" – he did explain the planned speech was having an effect on Congress, namely, with Democratic lawmakers pulling support for new sanctions to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program.

"It’s hurting you," the Democratic leader said he told Netanyahu. "I said," he told the Times, "'You [Netanyahu] have to understand this. I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do, but you have to understand the background here from my perspective.'"

Reid went on to say he felt Boehner had stepped out of the bounds of protocol by extending the speaking invitation, echoing a view held by the administration. Relaying this to Netanyahu, he said Boehner's move "was not the right thing to do."

Reid however, said Netanyahu has assured him the talk would be as nonpartisan as possible. "He proceeded to tell me how distrustful he is of Iran," Reid said in the interview, "and that is kind of an understatement."

Apart from calling Reid, Netanyahu reached out to others in the Democratic party – including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and New York Senator Charles E. Schumer – in an attempt to allay criticism surrounding his congressional address.

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