Pence to move forward with Mideast trip, as shutdown looms

Pence to move forward with Mideast trip, as shutdown looms
© Greg Nash

Vice President Pence will move forward with a scheduled trip across the Middle East, even as a potential government shutdown looms large.

An aide to the vice president told The Hill Thursday that Pence is set to travel to Egypt, Jordan and Israel regardless of whether there is a lapse in government funding. He is expected to leave for Cairo Friday evening. 

Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence, said the trip and planned meetings with Egyptian, Jordanian and Israeli leaders were vital to upholding U.S. national security and diplomatic objectives in the region. 

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“The Vice President’s meetings with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel are integral to America’s national security and diplomatic objectives, therefore the Vice President will travel to the Middle East as scheduled," she said in a statement.

President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE, who was set to spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, canceled that trip on Friday, according to a CNN report, as lawmakers faced a midnight Friday deadline to pass a key government spending measure.

The House passed a funding measure on Thursday, but whether such legislation will clear the Senate remains unclear.

Pence's Middle East trip comes after he postponed a planned visit to the region last month, in order to be present in Washington for a vote on Republicans' sweeping tax code overhaul. 

The three-country swing is expected to be closely watched, because it comes a little more than a month after Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate its embassy to the city.

That move set off a wave of backlash in the Middle East, particularly in the Palestinian Territories, where protests erupted in opposition to Trump's decision. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that the move essentially disqualifies the U.S. from brokering future peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.

During his stops in Egypt and Jordan, Pence is expected to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah II. 

In Israel, Pence is set to speak before the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and pay a visit to the Western Wall. He is also expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.