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Hispanic Dems want Mexican president to address Congress

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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 Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and minority leaders Sen. Charles Schumer (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.

{mosads}”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 Menendez (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 Boehner (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.

Tags Bob Menendez Boehner Charles Schumer John Boehner Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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