Rep. Richmond Statement on Decision Not to Attend March 3rd Joint Meeting

February 23, 2015
Press Release

Washington DCToday Representative Cedric Richmond (LA-02) released the following statement regarding his decision to not attend the March 3rd Joint Meeting of Congress, during which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak:

“Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak, currently scheduled for March 3rd before a joint session of Congress, is a global slap in the face to President Barack Obama,” said Rep. Richmond. “The United States Congress is not a political pawn, nor is it the forum to set foreign policy decisions without consultation from the President. For these reasons I will not attend this joint session.

The Constitution places the primary responsibility for foreign affairs in the hands of the President.  Speaker Boehner, a fervent defender of the Constitution, should understand this.  However, when he chose to invite a foreign leader to address a joint session of Congress without consulting the White House or Congressional Democratic leadership, he clearly encroached on the President’s Constitutional authority and breached tradition and protocol.  Time and time again, Speaker Boehner and Congressional Republicans have disrespected and tried to embarrass the President of the United States.  I hope that Speaker Boehner’s misguided action in this instance causes no irreversible harm.

The Prime Minister’s scheduled address destabilizes the President’s authority in foreign policy and forces lawmakers who are supportive of Israel to choose between offending Israel and undermining the President. We should not allow a short-sighted partisan action to cause discord among parties who agree on the threat of an armed Iran. Additionally, we must not allow Israel’s security to evolve into a partisan exercise and we must not allow the United States Congress to be used for any leader’s political purposes.

Israel is one of our nation’s strongest allies. This is an indisputable fact.  Throughout my career, I have been a staunch supporter of Israel through comments and actions. I was part of a select delegation to travel to Israel with Leader Nancy Pelosi to celebrate Independence Day and discuss our shared agenda with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  A secure and prosperous Israel is in the best interest of the United States and the world. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons undeniably threatens the security of both Israel and the United States. Because of this reality, the President and an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress agree that we must do all we can to prevent this from happening.

Elections will take place in Israel only a few short weeks after this proposed joint session. As a candidate in this election, Prime Minister Netanyahu should not speak before Congress. Using the floor of Congress for a stump speech not only marginalizes the integrity of Congress, but suggests an improper endorsement from the United States to a candidate in a foreign nation. We have established that Congress will not be a place for political posturing for foreign diplomats, even when they are our allies. Even in Israel, there is trepidation that the Prime Minister is overstepping his bounds if he goes forward with the speech as planned.

My decision not to attend the joint session is not an issue of partisanship, nor is it indicative of a lack of commitment to Israel. Members of Congress are tasked with upholding the sanctity of the Constitution. I intend to uphold that responsibility. I urge the Speaker to reconsider his unilateral and irresponsible decision to hold a Joint Session of Congress. The United States of America and Israel will remain steadfast allies, in spite of John Boehner’s political ploy. I will continue to support Israel and peace, but I will not undermine the President or the presidency of the United States of America.”