The White House has complained that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) broke with executive protocol in his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint sessions of Congress — and now Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is saying Boehner had the “hubris” to break an unwritten congressional protocol as well.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that “the typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there.”
“That certainly is how President Obama’s trips are planned when we travel overseas,” Earnest said. “So this particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol.”
The Netanyahu address is scheduled for Feb. 11.
“When I was — also when I was minority leader and became one of the four leaders, it was clear always that if we wanted — if we had a suggestion about a head of state to come, that it was something that had to — you passed around the four top leaders,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference today.
“For example, one of my, as minority leader before being speaker, one of the people that I was excited to invite or hoped to invite was the president of Liberia, woman president of Liberia, [Ellen] Sirleaf Johnson. And I knew that she would be a spectacular guest for the House, but — or for the Congress, a joint session, but I talked to Senator Frist, I talked to — I talked to the leadership about would that be OK. And they agreed that it would,” she continued.
“A concern that people had, going back then, was will members show up, because members are not always enthusiastic about attending these joint sessions.”
Netanyahu’s 2011 address to a joint session of Congress was packed.
“So that was — that was my introduction to it, you talked to all four, the other three leaders. There’s some consensus among four. And I’m not saying that it’s a big challenge. People usually would cooperate. But they’d raise their concerns about attendance, this or that. I know Sirleaf Johnson we would be bursting at the seams, and we were, with member attendance,” Pelosi said, adding more examples: “So, when I was speaker, we had King Abdullah of Jordan, President Sarkozy of France, the taoiseach of Ireland, Taoiseach Ahern, Prime Minister Brown of England, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and President Calderon of Mexico, some kind of a combination of initiated by the White House or initiated by Congress, but agreed to by all four leaders.”
“So, it’s out of the ordinary that the speaker would decide that he would be inviting people to a joint session without any bipartisan consultation.”
Pelosi added, “Of course, we always — our friendship with Israel is a very strong one. Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken to the joint session two times already.”
“And there are concerns about the fact that this, as I understand it from this morning, that this presentation will take place within two weeks of the election in Israel. I don’t think that’s appropriate for any country, that the head of state would come here within two weeks of his own election in his own country,” she said. “The more serious part of your question is about the sanctions. Yes, the president was correct in his presentation and the strength with which he presented his appeal to Congress that we not have sanctions at this time.”
Pelosi chided pro-sanctions lawmakers, including many Dems. “Everybody knows that Congress can pass sanctions anytime. So, what is the point? What is the point? What is the — the problem is that it could seriously undermine the delicate diplomacy that is at work… And so, what is the point of — of sanctions? And if that’s the purpose of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit two weeks before his own election, right in the midst of our negotiations, I just don’t think it’s appropriate and helpful.”
She wasn’t done.
Pelosi said Boehner has “awesome power” in his position as speaker, but “that power is not to be squandered.”
“It’s hubris to say, you know, ‘I rule; I’ll decide.’ And without any sensitivity to the fact that an election is taking two weeks — and within two weeks, the invitation I get is for the 3rd of March and the election is the — what? — the 17th, something like that. And also the fact that what is the purpose of it. Is the purpose to come and talk about sanctions? To talk about a policy in opposition to the policy that our president has just put forth in his State of the Union address and that has been in operation for many months?”
Boehner said in a statement Wednesday that Netanyahu “is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people.”
“In this time of challenge, I am asking the Prime Minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life,” Boehner continued. “Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”