Vice President Biden to Miss Netanyahu's Speech in Congress

Biden's office says he'll be traveling abroad; growing list of Democratic lawmakers planning to miss the speech.

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) speaks with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting on Middle East security in New Orleans, Louisiana November 7, 2010.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) speaks with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting on Middle East security in New Orleans, Louisiana November 7, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Vice President Joe Biden will miss Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress.

Biden’s office says he’ll be traveling abroad.

Netanyahu’s speech has infuriated the White House, which has had a tense relationship with the prime minister. Congressional Republican leaders coordinated the speech with the Israelis but did not consult with the Obama administration. The White House says that’s a breach of diplomatic protocol.

It’s unclear where Biden will be traveling. His office says the trip was in the works before Netanyahu’s March 3 speech was announced.

As president of the Senate, the vice president typically attends joint sessions of Congress. The White House has said Biden missed one previous session in 2011 before of foreign travel.

Biden joins a growing list of Democratic lawmakers who say they plan to miss the speech, according to The Hill, a website covering events in Congress.

Representatives James Clyburn (South Carolina,) the third-ranking House Democrat, and Raúl Grijalva (Arizona,) chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), are the latest lawmakers to indicate they won't attend the session.

They join other leading Demopcrats – including Reps. John Lewis (Georgia,) the civil rights legend, and G.K. Butterfield (North Carolina,) head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) – in protesting the speech by vowing to steer clear of it.

Several other liberal Democrats, including Earl Blumenauer (Oregon,) Barbara Lee (California) and Gregory Meeks (New York), also intend to boycott the address.

A number of liberals in both the CBC and CPC have declined to announce their intentions, while several others – including Hank Johnson (Georgia) and Keith Ellison (Minnesota,) the co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus – say are urging that the speech be postponed.

Other Democrats are signaling their intention to attend. Senator Nancy Pelosi (Maryland) said she thinks that, "as of now," she'll be in the audience. And the office of representative David Scott, a CBC member, said Friday that the Georgia Democrat will also be there.

The Hill quoted one Democratic aide as lamenting that the debate has evolved in such a way that lawmakers risk the perception of being forced to choose between their support for Israel and that for the White House.

"We want to support both," the aide said, "and there's no way to attend this speech and do that.

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