on the hill

Schumer suggests he’s open to a Congressional speech by Netanyahu

The Senate majority leader’s comments came after House Speaker Mike Johnson confirmed plans to invite the Israeli prime minister to speak to Congress

Aaron Schwartz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the media during a weekly press conference in the Capitol Building in Washington DC, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) suggested that he’s open to inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, despite his call last week for the Israeli leader’s ouster.

Schumer’s comments come after House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) confirmed plans to invite Netanyahu to speak to Congress, and amid escalating tensions between President Joe Biden and the Israeli prime minister.

“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.”

Johnson said on CNBC on Thursday morning that he would “certainly extend that invitation” to Netanyahu to speak to Congress. But a Schumer spokesperson said that Johnson had not yet discussed the idea with Schumer directly, after first floating the idea on Wednesday. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said he hadn’t been consulted either.

Johnson, as House speaker, can invite Netanyahu to address the House, but a full joint meeting of the House and Senate would require Schumer’s support. Johnson and Netanyahu spoke privately on Wednesday.

With a growing number of Democrats pinning blame on Netanyahu for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and rejecting his handling of the war against Hamas, the prospect of a speech by the Israeli prime minister to Congress could be politically explosive, hearkening back to Netanyahu’s 2015 address to a joint meeting of Congress, when the prime minister condemned the nuclear talks with Iran that would months later result in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Fifty-eight lawmakers skipped Netanyahu’s last speech.

Johnson noted on CNBC that he’d also been invited to address the Knesset, adding “we’re just trying to work out schedules on all this.”

He went on to again condemn Schumer’s speech, calling it “almost staggering, just unbelievable,” and a “terrible signal” to the world.

“To suggest to our strongest ally in the Middle East, the only stable democracy, that he knows better how to run their democracy is just patently absurd,” Johnson said. “I mean, imagine if I came on your show this morning and called for regime change in Ukraine. In the middle of their crisis, fighting for their very survival. That’s what Israel is facing right now.”

Johnson also pledged that the House would “immediately” move to considering emergency funding for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan once it passes 2024 government funding in the coming days.

“There are ideas, very thoughtful ideas, on how to do it,” Johnson said. “I think we’ll get the job done and we’ll project strength.”

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