Leading members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are lining up to skip a coming speech by the prime minister of Israel.
Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights icon, and G.K. ButterfieldG.K. ButterfieldFCC defends not fighting legal challenge to prison call rates A guide to the committees: House 40 House Dems to urge Trump to suspend Flynn MORE (D-N.C.), the chairman of the CBC, said they won't attend Benjamin Netanyahu's March 3 speech before Congress to protest Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerGOP rushes to vote without knowing full impact of healthcare plan Dem senator to reintroduce ‘buy American’ legislation GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes MORE's (R-Ohio) decision to invite the prime minister without first consulting President Obama and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.
Butterfield said that move marked an "unprecedented overreach of the Speaker’s authority" that "goes beyond the traditions of his office."
"His actions unnecessarily politicize our steadfast relationship with Israel, and potentially subvert U.S. foreign policy," he added. "The United States is and will remain Israel’s strongest ally. However, I refuse to be a part of a political stunt aimed at undercutting President Obama.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Lewis delivered a similar message.
"I think it’s an affront to the president and the State Department what the speaker did,” Lewis told the AP.
Both lawmakers emphasized that they are not organizing a formal boycott, but had made the personal decision to steer clear of the speech.
"The only thing I can control is my attendance," Butterfield told the AP.
Brenda Jones, a spokeswoman for Lewis, confirmed that the lawmaker is not planning to attend the speech, adding that the decision was not an organized boycott.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she plans to attend Netanyahu's address next month, but she made clear that she hopes the event is canceled — and left plenty of wiggle room to skip the speech herself.
“As of now it is my intention to go,” she said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “It’s still my hope that the event will not take place.”
Pelosi also emphasized that members are often too busy to attend addresses from heads of state, saying the speeches are "not a high-priority item" for lawmakers "here doing their work."
"I don't think anybody should use the word boycott in this," she said. "Members will go or they won't go, as they usually go or don't go."
Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOvernight Finance: Biz groups endorse Trump's Labor pick | New CBO score coming before health bill vote | Lawmakers push back on public broadcasting cuts Dem, GOP lawmakers push back against Trump’s cuts to public broadcasting Trump: Mar-a-Lago 'most convenient' place to hold VA meeting MORE (D-Ore.) will also forgo the speech, the AP reported.
— This story was updated at 7:22 p.m.