Vice President Joe Biden won’t be anywhere near Capitol Hill when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes to address Congress next month.
Biden will be traveling abroad when Netanyahu comes to Washington to address a joint session of Congress on March 3, his office said Friday. It’s the latest development since Netanyahu accepted House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress on the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran – more than a touchy subject for the White House – without giving the White House a heads up.
Biden’s absence won’t go unnoticed during Netanyahu’s visit to a joint meeting of Congress, during which the Vice President, the Senate’s president, normally sits alongside the Speaker of the House.
Netanyahu snub takes relations with White House to a new low
The Vice President’s office declined to say which country he will travel to while the Israeli head of state is in Washington.
“We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn’t announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for a while. We will announce additional information as soon as we are able,” Biden’s office said.
Netanyahu’s decision to address Congress without the President’s knowledge did not sit well with the White House, which viewed the move as a major snub.
President Barack Obama has been urging Congress to hold off on additional sanctions against Iran while negotiations are still underway in Geneva, whereas Netanyahu has called the negotiations fruitless and argued for additional sanctions.
Democratic senators to hold back on Iran sanctions
The White House has already said Obama will not meet with Netanyahu, because his visit comes too close to Israeli elections. Netanyahu will face voters less than two weeks after his visit to Washington.
Biden’s announcement comes as a group of Senate Democrats suggested they might boycott Netanyahu’s speech.
Asked if it was “dangerous” that some Democrats might purposefully skip the speech, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the President doesn’t think it would be a positive the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is viewed through a partisan lens.
“The President believes that individual members of Congress ought to decide for themselves. That’s certainly appropriate,” he added.
Cassie Spodak contributed to this report.