Democrats Struggling Ahead Of Netanyahu’s Congress Address

( – Israel’s offensive against Hamas has caused strife and division in the United States. Not only are there protests around the country, but lawmakers in Congress are split, too. Now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address both chambers, and Democrats are struggling with whether or not to attend the speech.

Democrats Grapple With Attending Speech

In the past several months, since Hamas attacked Israel in October, resulting in the current conflict going on today, relations between Democratic lawmakers and Netanyahu have gone south. The idea of the speech was first floated in March, and while House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) immediately signed on, it took Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) a few months to do so.

Democrats are worried about the humanitarian effect the war in Gaza is having on Palestinians. Many claim Israel is perpetrating genocide in its all-out attacks and more than a million are at risk if Israel proceeds in its assault on Rafah.

Reminiscent of 2015

If Democrats boycott Netanyahu’s speech, it wouldn’t be the first time they did so. In 2015, during former President Barack Obama’s administration, 58 lawmakers declined to attend. Then-Vice President Joe Biden also boycotted the event. The protest was regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal that Obama was working on at the time. Netanyahu was, at the time, trying to throw a wrench in the negotiations between the two sides.

Among those who didn’t attend in 2015 are Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

According to Axios, several progressive lawmakers said to expect something reminiscent of 2015 this year. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Progressive Caucus, said, “There’s a conversation about what [the boycott] should be and what it looks like.” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said, “given what’s going on” at the moment, the boycott could be even larger than it was in 2015.

One senior House Democrat, though, took a different stance. They said that since they “ran for a seat in that room,” they were “going to be in that seat even if things that are unsavory might be happening.” Then, Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) noted that the Congressional speech is the perfect opportunity for Democratic lawmakers to share their feelings with Netanyahu about all things pertaining to the war and perceived injustices.

There is currently no set date for Netanyahu’s speech. Johnson said he is working with the Israeli PM to set one.

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