There will be no organized "boycott" of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech before the US Congress March 3, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday - but she suggested some lawmakers might just be too busy to attend, writes the National Journal.
"I don't think anybody should use the word 'boycott,'" Pelosi said in her weekly press conference. "When these heads of state come, people are here doing their work, they're trying to pass legislation, they're meeting with their constituents and the rest. It's not a high-priority item for them."
"Things happen in people's schedule," she said as reporters cackled. "You just never know."
She blamed House Speaker John Boehner for the way he invited Netanyahu, saying that the majority party needed to "demonstrate that you're going to fill those seats."
Pelosi said she herself plans to attend the speech, though she still hopes that Netanyahu or Republicans will decide to cancel the address – which Democrats see as an effort to undermine US President Barack Obama's policy on Iran.
The handling of the visit by Boehner, who invited Netanyahu of his own accord without coordinating with the White House, raises questions about the entire process of hearing from foreign heads of state, Pelosi added.
"Maybe we even have to review the idea of joint sessions of Congress," she said.
A Pelosi aide pointed out Wednesday that no congressmen have yet said on the record that they plan to be absent.
Several Democratic senators said Wednesday that they are considering boycotting Netanyahu's speech, CNN reported, to protest what they say is Boehner's disregard for protocol in inviting Netanyahu without the White House's knowledge.
"Colleagues of mine are very concerned about it and I'm troubled by it. I won't name names, of course," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). "It's a serious mistake by the speaker and the prime minister. The relationship between Israel and the United States has been so strong, so bipartisan."
A "disaster for Israel"?
Durbin said he had not yet decided whether to attend the speech, in which Netanyahu is expected to criticize the West's nuclear weapons negotiations with Iran.
"One of my closest friends – one of the strongest supporters of Israel – described this Boehner tactic as a disaster, a terrible disaster for Israel," Durbin added.
"I won't speak for any other members but they've been talking to me about what is the right way to react to what could turn out to be a divisive event."
Other Democratic Senators are equivocating on whether to attend, while still others, such as Sen. Chris Coons, (D-DE), made clear they would not.
There have even been discussions of a mass boycott, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), however, argued it would be a mistake for Democrats to skip out on the speech.
"I think that would not be appropriate treatment of the prime minister of Israel, and I'm sure they can respond to their constituents as to why they would do that," he said.
"The overriding reason he was invited is because of our concerns with the negotiation with Iran, which will then allow Iran to become a nuclear power," McCain continued.
"There is not confidence on the part of Republicans in the negotiations that are going on. We believe they've already given away, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, too much. That's why we want to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu."