House Speaker John Boehner Sunday defended his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress in March, saying that President Barack Obama is ignoring threats posed by Iran and terrorists.
In a joint interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CBS’ ‘60 Minutes,’ Boehner accused Obama of barely discussing terrorism in his State of the Union speech last Tuesday.
‘The president didn’t spend but a few seconds talking about the threat, the terrorist threat that we as Americans face,’ Boehner, R-Ohio, said. ‘This problem is growing all over the world. And you know, the president is trying to act like it’s not there. But it is there.’
Boehner said he wants Netanyahu to speak to Congress because ‘there’s nobody in the world who can talk about the threat of radical terrorism, nobody (who) can talk about the threat that the Iranians pose, not just to the Middle East and to Israel…but to the entire world, but Bibi Netanyahu.’
Boehner announced his Netanyahu invite after Obama, in his State of the Union speech, repeated his call for Congress not to impose new sanctions against Iran as negotiators continue talks on its nuclear program. Lawmakers are teeing up measures to impose new sanctions on Iran or require congressional approval for any nuclear deal struck with the Tehran government.
‘Under the proposal we’re considering those enhanced sanctions would only occur if a deal is not reached,’ McConnell said. ‘In other words, it further incentivizes the Iranians to reach an agreement because they know things could get considerably worse if they do not.’
Boehner’s invitation doused cold water on an already chilly relationship between Obama and Netanyahu when the White House said that the president won’t meet with the prime minister when he comes to Washington.
Administration officials said Netanyahu’s scheduled visit is too close Israel’s March 17 election.
‘As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,’ Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said in an email statement last week.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest last week called the invitation a breach of protocol, noting that, typically, a foreign leader contacts the leader of the country when he plans to visit.
‘This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol,’ Earnest said last week.
Boehner told ‘60 Minutes’ that he gave the White House ‘a heads up’ about the invitation on the morning of the State of the Union speech.
Still, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ that the invitation was ‘a terrible mistake by the speaker.’
‘It at least used to be the goal that politics ended at the water's edge, and now it only begins there,’ Schiff said. ‘I think for us to extend an invitation two weeks before the Israeli election gives the Israelis the impression we’re trying to meddle in their politics and I also find it extraordinary that a world leader would be invited before the Congress effectively to lobby in favor of a bill the president opposes. I think it’s harmful to the U.S.-Israel relationship. I think it was a very ill-considered decision by the speaker.’