US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (L) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) plan to skip Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before Congress.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Nearly two dozen Democrats have already announced their intention to skip Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress next week, the American political journal The Hill reported on Wednesday.
Netanyahu’s address will focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, which has grabbed headlines in recent weeks as the Western powers and the Islamic Republic near a deadline to strike a deal.
The prime minister is expected to lobby deputies to support more sanctions, a prospect that the Obama administration opposes since it fears that any new punitive measures would sabotage the negotiations.
Democrats are dissatisfied about the speech since it came at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress. Boehner and Netanyahu made the arrangements for the address without consulting with the White House, the State Department, and Democrats, fueling criticism that the speech is a partisan gambit meant to undercut President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
According to The Hill
, 23 Democrats serving in the House of Representatives will boycott the speech, among them G.K. Butterfield, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus; Steve Cohen, a Jewish lawmaker from Tennessee; Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress; Charles Rangel of New York; and John Yarmuth.
Thus far, two Democratic senators and one independent have said that they intend to stay away from the speech – Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.), and Brian Schatz (Hawaii).
Among the prominent senators who do plan to attend are Barbara Boxer, minority leader Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and Robert Menendez.
At least two dozen other lawmakers have yet to decide whether to attend the speech.