Sen. Orrin Hatch to take Biden’s seat during Netanyahu address

Greg Nash

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will take Vice President Biden’s place beside Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress next month.

Biden’s office on Friday said he will be traveling out of the country at the time of Netanyahu’s address, which means the ceremonial duties will fall to Hatch, who is the president pro tempore of the Senate, GOP aides said.

The image of Boehner and Hatch behind the Israeli leader will underscore the divide between Republicans and Democrats over the controversial address.

{mosads}Boehner arranged the March 3 speech without consulting first with the Obama administration — a move the White House and congressional Democrats have complained was a breach of diplomatic protocol.

A growing list of Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), have said they will skip the speech in protest of how it was handled.

In addition, both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said they will not meet with Netanyahu during his trip to Washington because the visit falls just two weeks before the Israeli elections.

Speeches by foreign heads of state are usually attended by the vice president, who sits on the House rostrum in his role as president of the Senate.

Hatch’s nearly 40 years in the upper chamber make him the most senior Republican senator. When Republicans seized the majority last month, he became president pro tempore, putting him third in line to the presidency behind only Biden and Boehner.

The Utah senator is also chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.

Having the pro tempore fill in for the vice president isn’t unprecedented. In March 2011, then-pro tempore Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) was seated on the Speaker’s rostrum next to Boehner when Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed a joint session of Congress. Biden also was traveling abroad that time as well. 

Tags Boehner John Boehner John Kerry Orrin Hatch
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