(by Jake Miller, CBSNews) – House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress on Feb. 11 about the threat posed by Islamic extremism and the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people,” Boehner said in a statement on Wednesday. “In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life. Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu is [strongly opposed to] the negotiations with Iran, a longtime adversary of his country, and he’s spoken out against a deal that could leave Iran with the “break-out” capacity to convert a nuclear energy program into a nuclear weapons program. [Iran has called for the destruction of Israel more than once. The U.S. and other Western countries believe that Iran is intent on trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and exists only to produce energy for civilian use.]
The address would be Netanyahu’s third to a joint session (joint meeting) of Congress. The Israeli leader previously spoke before lawmakers in 1996, during a previous stint as prime minister, and in 2011.
The invitation comes as Congress is gearing up for a debate over additional sanctions on Iran. Republican lawmakers, along with several key Democrats, hope that additional sanctions could apply pressure to Iran in the nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and its European partners. But the administration has warned that any new punitive action against Iran could end up jeopardizing the prospect of a deal.
As he has before, President Obama warned lawmakers during his State of the Union address on Tuesday to hold off on imposing any new sanctions until the negotiations conclude, [saying he would veto any new sanctions]. [CNN reports that at a press confeence last week the President warned fellow Democrats and Republicans who support sanctions to “hold their fire.” Democrats who support a sanctions bill, like Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, have increased their criticism of the White House. “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” railed Menendez at a hearing with administration officials on Capitol Hill.]
“New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails, alienating America from its allies and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again,” Mr. Obama said. “It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”
On Wednesday, during a House Republican Conference meeting, Boehner [addressed] the president’s objections. “He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran,” Boehner told his caucus. “Two words: ‘Hell no!’ We’re going to do no such thing.”
During a news conference on Tuesday, the speaker said he did not consult with the White House before issuing the invitation — “The Congress can make its decision on its own” — but he also insisted, “I don’t believe I’m poking anyone in the eye.”
“There is a serious threat that exists in the world, and the president last night kind of papered over it,” Boehner said. “And the fact is is that there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is from radical Islamic jihadists and the threat posed by Iran.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has not yet responded to the speaker’s offer, but aides to Boehner say they’ve been in consultation with the prime minister’s office for several weeks and they expect the Israelis to formally accept the invitation before the end of the day. …[Politico reported: White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it wasn’t typical protocol for Congress to invite Netanyahu to speak without informing the White House or State Department first. Taking a somewhat softer tone, Secretary of State John Kerry later said Netanyahu is welcome to give a speech in the U.S. at “any time,” though he conceded that it was a “little unusual” to hear the news from Boehner’s office.]
(For a list of world leaders who have addressed Congress, go to: history.house.gov/Institution/Foreign-Leaders/Joint-Sessions)
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NOTE TO STUDENTS: Before answering the questions, read the “Background” and watch the video under “Resources”
1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)
2. For what reasons did Speaker Boehner invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak?
3. a) How many times has Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress? (When?)
b) Is it unusual for the leader of a country that is a close ally to be invited to speak to Congress? Explain your answer.
4. a) How do many members of Congress (Republicans and Democrats) differ from President Obama on the tactic the U.S. should take to get Iran to end its nuclear weapons program?
b) Ask a parent or a grandparent which way he/she thinks will be more effective and why?
Foreign Leaders & Dignitaries Who Have Addressed the U.S. Congress (history.house.gov/Institution/Foreign-Leaders/Joint-Sessions)
Joint Meetings and Joint Sessions – CHANGE OVER TIME:
As the U.S. attained greater status in the 20th century, the method used to invite foreign leaders and dignitaries to address Congress evolved. The practice of receiving foreign leaders before Joint Meetings or Joint Sessions was exceedingly rare prior to World War II. The French general and Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette made the first address before the House of Representatives in 1824. While it is commonly assumed that it was the first joint meeting, Lafayette addressed the House and Senate separately. Members of the Senate were invited to the 10 December 1824 address in the House Chamber. On 8 December 1824 a joint congressional committee determined that General Lafayette would address both the House and Senate separately:
That the joint committee have agreed to recommend to their respective Houses, that each House receive General Lafayette in such manner as it shall deem most suitable to the occasion; and recommend to the House the adoption of the following resolutions:
1. Resolved, That the congratulations of this House be publicly given to General Lafayette on his arrival in the United States in compliance with the wishes of Congress; and that he be assured of the gratitude and deep respect which the House entertains for his signal and illustrious services in the Revolution; and the pleasure it feels in being able to welcome him, after an absence of so many years, to the theatre of his early labor, and early renown.
2. Resolved, That, for this purpose, General Lafayette be invited, by a committee, to attend the House on Friday next at one o’clock: that he be introduced by the committee, and received by the members, standing, uncovered, and addressed by the Speaker, in behalf of the House, in pursuance of the foregoing resolution.”
This report was read and agreed to, unanimously, by the House.
A full half-century passed before another foreign leader was extended the honor. On 18 December 1874, King David Kalakaua of Hawaii became the first member of royalty accorded the honor of appearing before a Joint Meeting of Congress. Hawaiian Chief Justice Elisha Hunt Allen, a former Member of the U.S. House, delivered the king’s address because the monarch was incapacitated with a head cold. French Ambassador Andre de Laboulaye spoke before a Joint Session of Congress on 20 May 1934. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress on 26 December 1941—less than three weeks after the U.S. entered World War II.
Churchill’s address, the first of three he delivered before Congress, began a new trend in which Congress invited foreign leaders to address Joint Meetings rather than just one-chamber receptions. Within the next decade nine additional Joint Meetings were held for foreign leaders.
After the Second World War, foreign leaders who addressed Joint Meetings often represented America’s close wartime allies—particularly those from Atlantic Alliance countries. A large number also represented newly emerging democracies in Asia, South America, Latin America, and Africa. (from history.house.gov/Institution/Foreign-Leaders/Change-Over-Time)
For a list of world leaders who have addressed Congress: history.house.gov/Institution/Foreign-Leaders/Joint-Sessions
Read a January 2014 article about U.S. and our allies continuing attempts to get Iran to end its nuclear weapons program: studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/west-iran-enact-nuclear-deal
Watch a Reuters news video: