The White House announced Friday that Vice President Joe Biden will not attend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress next month. Netanyahu will be in the United States on a three day visit.
Talking Points Memo (TPM) reported Friday that Biden will not be at Netanyahu’s address, and will instead be abroad. Exact details of the trip remain unclear, however. “We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn’t announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for awhile,” Biden’s office explained to TPM.
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The news was first reported by The Associated Press, who noted that Biden would sit next to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, as Netanyahu would be delivering the address. The AP report continues:
Biden has only missed one prior joint meeting of Congress: a 2011 address to lawmakers by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose speech coincided with another overseas trip by the vice president.
Obama and Netanyahu have long had a tense relationship, in part because of the Israeli leader’s skepticism of the U.S.-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. Netanyahu has backed congressional efforts to pass new sanctions on Iran during the negotiations, again putting him at odds with Obama, who has vowed to veto such legislation.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday he expected Biden to be in attendance for Pope Francis’ address to Congress in September, but was not sure on Netanyahu’s. “Well, the vice president’s schedule for the first week of March is also not set yet,” he said.
The pontiff is the head of state for Vatican City; Boehner did not consult with Democrats on either Netanyahu’s or the Holy Father’s invitation.