Pence delays Israel trip over GOP tax bill

Pence delays Israel trip over GOP tax bill
© Greg Nash

Vice President Pence will delay his trip to the Middle East as Congress prepares to vote on a major tax overhaul, his office said Thursday.

A Pence spokeswoman said the vice president plans to leave next week instead, so he can preside over the Senate during a vote on the tax bill.

“Yesterday, the White House informed Senate leadership that due to the historic nature of the vote in the Senate on tax cuts for millions of Americans, the vice president would stay to preside over the vote,” Pence press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement.

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Pence had been scheduled to leave Saturday for Israel amid renewed tensions in the region over President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital. The vice president also plans to travel to Egypt.

During his visit, Farah said Pence will “reaffirm the United States’ commitment to its allies in the Middle East and to working cooperatively to defeat radicalism.”

His schedule, however, is expected to change after Palestinian leaders and Muslim and Christian clerics refused to meet with him due to Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem.

The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who blasted Trump’s decision, said this week he will not meet with Pence. The two had been scheduled to meet in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Pence’s office is saying the delay has only to do with the Senate vote — and not the situation in the Middle East.

GOP leadership has said the party has the votes to pass the tax bill next week, a timeline that would give Trump a big legislative victory before Christmas.

The vice president would be called on to break a tie in the event the Senate deadlocks 50-50 on the revised tax plan. Republicans can only lose two votes and still have Pence act as tie-breaker.

Republican leaders do not expect to need Pence to vote, but Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLou Dobbs: Political criticism of McCain 'not an exhumation of his body' Trump rips McCain, says he gave Steele dossier to FBI for 'very evil purposes' The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game MORE (R) was hospitalized this week due to health issues related to brain-cancer treatment and Tennessee Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R) opposes the bill.

In Israel, the vice president is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Pence is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. But the vice president, who is a deeply religious Christian, will not be received by the leader of the Coptic Christian church in Egypt.

-Updated 11:23 a.m.