Leaving the White House out, House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on February 11 vis-à-vis Iran. The White House said it was not told about the invitation. Boehner released a statement saying: “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, unlike Barack Obama, is friendly with Netanyahu, and also said that the prime minister “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. “
White House spokesman Josh Earnest complained, “The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there. This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol.” When Boehner was asked whether his invitation was a “poke in the eye” to Obama, he succinctly replied, “The Congress can make this decision on its own. I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye.”
The GOP has often voiced criticism of Obama for his tolerance of Iran’s nuclear program, as recently as late December, when Sen. Marco Rubio took him to task. Netanyahu has been a powerful proponent of action rather than diplomacy to deal with the fundamentalist leaders of Iran. A senior GOP aide said Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been planning for Netanyahu to speak to Congress for months. Boehner and
Israeli ambassador broached the subject in early January; Netanyahu expressed his approval. Netanyahu is up for reelection on March 17. The speech would be a reminder to Israelis of his own strong stand on regional security.
Obama said in the SOTU that he would veto any attempt by Congress to make sanctions on Iran stricter while asserting he would ask Congress for the authority to use force to fight ISIS; Boehner found Obama’s words a weak response, saying, “There is a serious threat that exists in the world and the president last night kind of papered over it. The fact is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamist jihadists.”
Boehner told some GOP representatives that Congress would attempt to pass harsher sanctions on Iran despite Obama’s opposition. He said, “You may have seen that on Friday, the president warned us not to move ahead with sanctions on Iran, a state sponsor of terror. His exact message to us was: ‘Hold your fire.’ He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran. Two words: ‘Hell no!’ … We’re going to do no such thing.”