Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back his meeting with Congress to March, House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday on his verified Twitter account.
Boehner’s tweet stated that the scheduling change was meant to accommodate Netanyahu’s request to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C. The new date – March 3 – is also two weeks before the Israeli election.
The meeting with Congress was originally scheduled for Feb. 11.
Netanyahu has raised alarm bells about nuclear talks between the Obama administration and Iran. In the U.S., the Iran talks are a topic that has pitted President Barack Obama against senior Democrats in the Senate, one of whom accused the administration on Wednesday of using talking points “straight out of Tehran.”
Congressional leaders in both chambers are considering proposals to increase sanctions while international negotiators try to reach an agreement with Iran over nuclear capabilities. The sanctions would not kick in unless certain benchmarks are met by June 30, but the White House has argued that a debate and vote now could derail the talks.
Obama will not meet with Netanyahu when he visits in March, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement Thursday.
Obama, who has threatened a veto if a sanctions bill passes through Congress, used uncharacteristically frank language at a press conference last week to warn fellow Democrats and Republicans who support sanctions to “hold their fire.”
Far from holding 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.
Boehner told reporters he did not consult with the White House about the invitation to Netanyahu, saying “the Congress can make this decision on its own.”
Asked by CNN if this was a deliberate poke at the President, Boehner replied “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.”
He added, “the fact is there needs to be a more serious conversation in America about how serious the threat is – from radical Islamic jihadists and from the threat posed by Iran.”
Boehner declined to say when the House would vote on another Iran sanctions bill, but said committees are planning hearings on the issue. Multiple House GOP aides say there are plans for a vote, but the timing is still unclear.
Boehner announced his invitation for Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran the day after President Obama pled with Congress during his State of the Union address to allow the talks to progress.
Typically invitations to foreign leaders to address Congress are coordinated ahead of time with the White House, but congressional sources said the Speaker acted on his own.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on the way to Idaho for an event with President Obama that the White House is “reserving judgment” until they speak with the Israelis and see what Netanyahu plans to say before Congress.
Boehner’s team had been discussing this invite with Netanyahu “for weeks,” according to a House GOP leadership source, who added the reason driving the invitation was the Administration’s negotiations with Iran.
While they did not consult with the White House, this Republican aide said Boehner’s office did inform the White House this morning that Netanyahu would be coming.
Boehner’s office said this visit be Netanyahu’s third appearance before a joint meeting of Congress, “and his second during Boehner’s speakership.”
Laura Koran and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.