Hispanic Dems want Mexican president to address Congress

Hispanic Dems want Mexican president to address Congress
© Getty Images

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) petitioned leaders of the House and Senate on Thursday, asking them to invite Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to address a joint session of Congress.

In a letter to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows Hillicon Valley: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference MORE (R-Ky.) and minority leaders Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor's race then 'enjoy the game' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), CHC members cited what they said is the damage done to U.S.-Mexico relations by President Trump.

"While the United States and Mexico have maintained a strong partnership over the past several decades, President Trump’s recent comments and actions have threatened diplomatic relations between our countries," read the letter.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Recent statements and actions by the Trump Administration have damaged our nations’ ties. It is absolutely critical that Congress reiterate the United States’ commitment to our important ally Mexico." 

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenators ask Treasury to probe Brazilian meatpacker with major US footprint Top Foreign Relations Democrat calls on Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters Democrats question Pence, Perry on travel to Ukraine MORE (D-N.J.), one of the signers of the letter, told The Hill in an email "this important request comes at a pivotal time for our bilateral relationship. 

"Our histories, our cultures, our people are tied together and we owe it to ourselves to stand up and demonstrate that the United States still believes in building bridges and not walls," Menendez wrote.

The request comes in the wake of rising tensions between Trump and Peña Nieto, with the Mexican president canceling a planned visit to Washington in January.

The two presidents have clashed publicly over Trump's campaign pledge and executive order to build a wall on the southern border that Mexico would pay for. 

After Peña Nieto's trip was canceled, tensions flared again as excerpts of a phone call between the two presidents were leaked to the press. According to the reports on the call, Trump allegedly joked about using American military power to help Mexico control its "bad hombres."

Despite the tension, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Videgaray met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in Washington Wednesday.

At the end of the meeting, Tillerson announced he would soon visit Mexico City.

The petition to bring Peña Nieto to Congress explicitly states that it should be done in consultation with Trump.

"We believe Members of Congress would benefit from engaging directly with President Enrique Peña Nieto, and we respectfully ask you, in consultation with President Trump, to invite him to address a Joint Session of Congress," reads the letter.

In 2015, then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-Ohio) invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session, but did not ask for former President Obama's consent, as is traditional.

Netanyahu and Obama were at the time embroiled in disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel officially opposed.

The Democrats urging an address from Peña Nieto said their intent is to repair an important relationship.

"A Joint Session of Congress by President Peña Nieto could go a long way in rekindling our nations’ mutual vision and resolve to embark on a long-term plan for combined growth that will allow all of our citizens to prosper north and south of our common border,” Menendez said.

Jorge Aguilar, a spokesman for Pelosi, said a congressional address by Peña Nieto "would give US-Mexico relations a significant boost.

"It would not only help repair our relationship with our southern neighbor needlessly damaged by President Trump, but would restore and bolster cooperation on issues of mutual interest such as family ties, trade, immigration and the fight against transnational crime. It is our hope that Speaker Ryan will rise above the President's confrontational and counterproductive approach and extend the invitation to address the American people," said Aguilar.

This post was updated at 3:13 p.m.