Johnson says he will invite Netanyahu to address Congress amid partisan tension

Written by on March 21, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Mike Johnson said Thursday that he will invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress — a move that comes days after Senate Majority Chuck Schumer called for Israel to hold a new election seen as a way to replace Netanyahu.

“We will certainly extend that invitation,” Johnson said in an interview with CNBC.

“We’re just trying to work out schedules on all this,” Johnson added.

For a joint session of Congress to occur, Schumer would need to sign off on Johnson’s invitation.

Schumer said in a statement Thursday that he would not oppose Netanyahu coming to speak to lawmakers “in a bipartisan way.”

“Israel has no stronger ally than the United States and our relationship transcends any one president or any one Prime Minister,” Schumer said in a statement. “I will always welcome the opportunity for the Prime Minister of Israel to speak to Congress in a bipartisan way.”

Their comments came a day after Netanyahu had a video conference with Senate Republicans where they discussed a wide range of topics including aid to Israel and Schumer’s comments, according to multiple senators who were in the meeting.

Netanyahu notably spoke only to Senate Republicans Wednesday. Schumer declined a request from Netanyahu to virtually address the Senate Democratic caucus because, according to a spokesperson, “Sen. Schumer made it clear that he does not think these discussions should happen in a partisan matter.”

Johnson told reporters on Wednesday that he was considering inviting Netanyahu to address Congress in response to last week’s scathing speech from Schumer that was highly critical of Netanyahu. In the speech, Schumer said Netanyahu is an “obstacle to peace” and that he has “lost his way” as Israel bombards Gaza amid a growing humanitarian crisis there.

“As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me: The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after Oct. 7. The world has changed — radically — since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past,” Schumer said in the speech.

Johnson called Schumer’s comments “staggering” and “unbelievable.”

“For the leader of the Senate to say such a thing is just outrageous,” he said. “…It sends a terrible signal to our allies and our enemies around the world.”

Asked about if Schumer would agree to a joint session, Johnson said “I guess we will find out.”

“I’m the one that extends the invitations to speak in the House and if we just have the House that’s fine too,” Johnson said. “But I think a big majority of that Senate would want to come and stand in support of Netanyahu and Israel.”

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