Pelosi going to Bibi speech 'as of now'

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday she plans to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE's speech next month before Congress, but left the door open to changing her mind as the date draws closer.

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“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 has been a sharp critic of the speech, organized by Netanyahu and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as a platform to urge tougher sanctions on Iran — a position opposed by President Obama amid multi-lateral talks to negotiate a disarmament deal.

Pelosi and the Democratic critics contend Boehner bucked protocol by not consulting Obama or congressional Democrats about the invitation. They're also wary that the speech is scheduled to occur just weeks before a contentious national election in Israel. 

Pelosi said she's getting calls even from "staunch supporters" of Israel and Netanyahu saying, "It's outrageous ... that our floor of the House would be used, exploited in that way, for a political purpose."

Boehner on Thursday defended the invitation, citing the "real threat" of "radical Islamic terrorists" to Israel and the U.S.

"It was a very good idea," he told reporters in the Capitol. "There's a message that the American people need to hear and I think he's the perfect person to deliver it."

Pelosi and other top Democrats had met Wednesday in the Capitol with Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Israeli parliament, to discuss the issue. 

Pelosi on Thursday characterized the gathering as "a meeting of friendship" that was nonetheless "marked by sadness," and she emphasized that the Democrats' concerns had done little to convince Israeli officials to reconsider the timing of the speech.

"But," Pelosi added, "you never know, things happen in people's schedule ... you just never know."

A number of liberal Democrats are weighing whether to boycott Netanyahu's speech, to protest the timing, the message and the manner in which the invitation was extended.

But Pelosi downplayed the boycott threat and cautioned against reading too much into any absences that accompany the speech.

"I don't think anybody should use the word boycott in this. … Members will go or they won't go, as they usually go or don't go," she said.

"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.

"It's really sad that it has come to this," she added. "But hopefully there will be a path out of the situation that we're in."