Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to deliver one of the most controversial speeches to a joint session of Congress by a foreign leader ever, and Vice President Biden and a number of top Democrats won’t be attending.
Congressional Democrats are angry that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress without first telling the White House. Obama has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during the visit because it will occur two weeks before Israeli elections are set to take place.
Democrats face a difficult decision on whether to attend the address. Many will want to show support for the White House but will be wary of snubbing the leader of an important U.S. ally.
Here is a list of the Democrats who are planning to skip the speech and those who are planning to go.
Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.) — In a statement, Bass said that she would be in Los Angeles for a city council election. “My support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship has been consistent during my entire time in elected office, and that support will only continue in the years to come. Support for Israel has traditionally been a non-partisan issue, and I want it to remain so,” she said. "Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner mishandled inviting Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is now marred with controversy. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been provided with other options to talk with members of Congress, but he has turned them down to do the public speech. It is truly sad that Speaker Boehner and Prime Minister Netanyahu have chosen to play partisan and divisive politics.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) — Wrote a Jan. 29 column in The Huffington Post explaining his decision, saying the Constitution “vests the responsibility for foreign affairs in the president.”
Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla.)
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.) — The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) focused on Boehner undermining Obama in a statement and emphasized he's not urging a boycott.
Rep. Lois Capps (Calif.) — Told constituent in a letter posted to Facebook that she is skipping the speech.
Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.)
Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas)
Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.)
Rep. Lacy Clay (Mo.) will skip the speech, his office confirmed Monday.
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) — Clyburn is the highest-ranking Democratic leader to say he’ll skip the speech.
Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) — “After deliberation, I have decided I cannot in good conscience attend the Prime Minister’s speech. My decision not to attend is not a reflection of my support for Israel and its continued existence as a state and home for the Jewish people. I have always strongly supported Israel and I always will,” said Cohen in a statement.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) — "As a fierce supporter of Israel, I am disappointed in Speaker Boehner's efforts to drag Prime Minister Netanyahu into the GOP's endless efforts to undermine President Obama," she said in a statement.
Rep. John Conyers (Mich.)
Rep. Danny Davis (Ill.) will skip the speech, his office confirmed Monday.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) Announced she would not attend the day of Netanyahu's address because of the "partisan" nature of the invitation from Speaker Boehner.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.)
Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas) — "A partisan approach with our critical ally, Israel, is a grave mistake," he said in a statement.
Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.)
Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) — He is head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a member of the CBC and the first Muslim in Congress.
Rep. Chaka Fattah (Pa.)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (Ohio)
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) — Grijalva is a co-chairman of the CPC.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.) — A spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times that Gutierrez has a "strong" record on Israel but called the speech "a stunt."
Rep. Denny Heck (Wash.)
Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (Texas)
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) — "The Congresswoman has no plans to attend the speech at this time," a spokeswoman said.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio)
Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.)
Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) — A member of the CBC and former head of the CPC.
Rep. John Lewis (Ga.) — His office confirmed he’s not going but emphasized he's not organizing a formal boycott
Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa) — Told local press he likely won't attend.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) — “I am disappointed Speaker Boehner chose to irresponsibly interject politics into what has long been a strong and bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. As President Obama has noted, it is inappropriate for a Head of State to address Congress just two weeks ahead of their election. I agree that Congress should not be used as a prop in Israeli election campaigns, so I intend to watch the speech on TV in my office.”
Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.): "In my view Mr. Netanyahu’s speech before Congress is nothing more than a campaign event hosted by Speaker Boehner and paid for by the American people," McCollum said in a statement."
Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) — “I do not intend to attend the speech of Bibi,” he said in an email to a Seattle newspaper.
Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.) — Told MassLive.com the “timing and circumstances of this speech are deeply troubling.”
Rep. Jerry McNerney (Calif.) — “Rep. McNerney is not planning to attend the speech. He’s got several previously planned commitments for that day.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) — A CBC member.
Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.)
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine)
Rep. David Price (N.C.) — "Speaker Boehner should never have extended the invitation, given the proximity of the speech to Israel's national elections and the fact that delicate international negotiations, which the Prime Minister wishes to upend, are hanging in the balance.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.): Said she won’t attend but is “anguished” that Boehner’s invitation could weaken support for Israel in Congress.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.)
Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.)
Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.) — "We know what he is going to say," the Jewish lawmaker said in a statement.
Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) — “This has unfortunately become a partisan spectacle, both because of the impending Israeli election and because it was done without consulting the Administration,” said Sen. Franken in a statement. “I’d be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don’t believe should be happening. I’m confident that, once this episode is over, we can reaffirm our strong tradition of bipartisan support for Israel.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) — “There is no reason to schedule this speech before Israeli voters go to the polls on March 17 and choose their own leadership," Kasine said in a statement.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — Leahy called it a "tawdry and high-handed stunt," according to a Vermont newspaper.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, said it’s “wrong” that Obama wasn’t consulted about the speech.
Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) — “The U.S.-Israel relationship is too important to be overshadowed by partisan politics," said Schatz in a statement. "I am disappointed in the Republican leadership’s invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress with the apparent purpose of undermining President Obama’s foreign policy prerogatives.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.) — “I intend to watch his speech about Iran from my office, but I have strong objections to using the floor of the United State Congress as a stage for his election campaign — or anyone's for that matter," Heinrich said in a statement.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) — Warren is "deeply concerned" about the prospect of a nuclear Iran but said Speaker Boehner's actions "have made Tuesday’s event more political."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) — “I’m concerned that behind it was a mischievous effort to manipulate domestic politics in both countries, which should not be the terms of engagement between friendly allies,” he said in a statement to local station WPRI.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.)
Rep. Brad Ashford (Neb.)
Rep. Joyce Beatty (Ohio)
Rep. Don Beyer (Va.)
Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.)
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.)
Rep. Brendan Boyle (Pa.)
Rep. Michael Capuano (Mass.)
Rep. Matt Cartwright (Pa.)
Rep. Kathy Castor (Fla.)
Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.) Almost never attends joint-session speeches, but reverses his plans on Tuesday and says he'll come to see Netanyahu.
Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.)
Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) — Crowley is vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas)
Rep. Susan Davis (Calif.)
Rep. John Delaney (Md.)
Rep. Suzan DelBene (Wash.)
Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.)
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.)
Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.)
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (Conn.)
Rep. Sam Farr (Calif.)
Rep. Bill Foster (Ill.) - “While Rep. Foster believes Speaker Boehner’s breach of protocol was disappointing and ultimately dangerous to the US-Israel relationship, he will be attending the speech out of respect for the office of the Prime Minister of one of our most important allies. It is important that we maintain our strong relationship with Israel and maintain open lines of communication.”
Rep. Lois Frankel (Fla.)
Rep. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.)
Rep. John Garamendi (Calif.)
Rep. Alan Grayson (Fla.)
Rep. Gene Green (Texas)
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.)
Rep. Janice Hahn (Calif.)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.)
Rep. Jim Himes (Conn.) — He told a Connecticut newspaper he didn't want to make the situation worse.
Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.)
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.)
Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.)
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.)
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.)
Rep. Bill Keating (Mass.)
Rep. Joseph Kennedy (Mass.)
Rep. Dan Kildee (Mich.)
Rep. Derek Kilmer (Wash.) — “Derek intends to attend the speech," a spokesman told a newspaper in Seattle.
Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.)
Rep. James Langevin (R.I.)
Rep. John Larson (Conn.) — “I plan to attend the upcoming speech as a matter of courtesy and respect for the long commitment of the United States to our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel,” he told a newspaper in Connecticut.
Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.)
Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.)
Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.)
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (Calif.)
Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.)
Rep. Stephen Lynch (Mass.)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.)
Rep. Grace Meng (N.Y.)
Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.)
Rep. Patrick Murphy (Fla.)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.)
Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.)
Rep. Rick Nolan (Minn.)
Rep. Donald Norcross (N.J.)
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) — Says she is going “as of now.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Colo.)
Rep. Scott Peters (Calif.)
Rep. Jared Polis (Colo.)
Rep. Michael Quigley (Ill.)
Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.) — Rangel said he wasn't going to attend, but was in the audience during Netanyahu's speech.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.)
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.)
Rep. Raul Ruiz (Calif.)
Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio)
Rep. John Sarbanes (Md.)
Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.)
Rep. David Scott (Ga.)
Rep. Jose Serrano (N.Y.)
Rep. Terri Sewell (Ala.)
Rep. Brad Sherman (Calif.)
Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) — "I’m not going to be disrespectful toward a head of state from a country that is so important to us, but I think we could have accomplished getting updated by the prime minister in a way that worked with the White House," Swalwell told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Rep. Mark Takano (Calif.)
Rep. Dina Titus (Nev.)
Rep. Norma Torres (Calif.)
Rep. Niki Tsongas (Mass.)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.)
Rep. Filemon Vela (Texas)
Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.) — “If the speech occurs, he will attend," said spokesman Tony Ufkin.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) — Her spokesman told a Florida newspaper she will attend.
Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) — "Being absent is not a way to bolster" the relationship with Israel, he said on MSNBC.
Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) — "I'm deeply troubled that politics has been injected into this enduring relationship that has always been above politics, but I plan to go."
Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.) — “Israel is a friend and indispensable partner in the Middle East, and the bond between our two countries has been and always will be unbreakable. Israel’s security and that of the United States are inextricably linked. Nothing should divert attention from the foreign policy issues our two countries are facing: the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the ongoing conflict in Syria, recent terrorist attacks in Europe and the threat from Hamas and Hezbollah. I will attend the Prime Minister's speech.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.) — "Senator Cardin disagrees with how Speaker Boehner handled the invitation. It was inappropriate. However, Senator Cardin respects the Prime Minister of Israel and will attend his speech to Congress," according to a statement.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) — "Yes, I am going to go attend the speech," Feinstein said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday. "I’m going to listen respectfully," she added. "I’m not going to jump up and down, which is likely to be the posture in that room. I am very concerned by that speech."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)
Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.)
Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) — Manchin told the Daily Caller that “two wrongs don't make a right.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.)
Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.) — "Senator Peters plans to attend the speech but is disappointed that partisanship has been injected into this issue of national security," a Peters representative confirmed.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) says he plans to attend for now, but it is a “personal decision” for fellow senators.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.)
Sen. Tom Udall (N.M) — "Senator Udall plans to attend but he hopes that the speech will be postponed to a less politically charged time," said communications director Jennifer Talhelm.
ON THE FENCE
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — “I’m troubled with the way it’s being handled by congressional leaders. It has an impact not just on us in the U.S. but our friends in Israel,” he told The Hill last week.
Rep. Tony Cardenas (Calif.)
Rep. Yvette Clarke (N.Y.)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.)
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (Calif.) — "Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election," said Betsy Arnold Marr, DeSaulnier's chief of staff.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas)
Rep. Hank Johnson (Ga.) — A member of the CBC, he said he’s hoping the speech is postponed.
Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa) — “Since the speech is still about a month away, the Congressman’s schedule hasn’t been set yet,” said communications director Joe Hand.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (Calif.)
Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (N.J.)
Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.)
Rep. Bobby Rush (Ill.)
Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.) — Smith is "troubled" but undecided.
Rep. Paul Tonko (N.Y.)
Sen. Thomas Carper (Del.)
Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) — Coons told CNN he is “concerned” by the speech's timing.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.)
Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) — “The question is not whether or not Members should attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech next month but whether we should adhere to the usual way that these invitations to address Congress are extended. And that way is to work with the President, who is Constitutionally tasked with conducting foreign policy,” she said in a statement. “I call upon Speaker Boehner to work with the President to extend this invitation.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.)
Sen. Mark Warner (Va.)
— This list, last updated on March 3 at 11:21 a.m., will be updated as new information comes in.
— An earlier version of this list incorrectly categorized Rep. Dan Kildee (Mich.), who is attending the speech.