Thursday, January 22, 2015

podium power as a congressional tool

We have today an excellent example of how the power game is played in Washington. As readers of the Constitution know, only the President can decide on the recognition of foreign governments, that is the exchange of ambassadors. It may come soon with Cuba, despite laws on the books imposing tight trade sanctions and other restrictions. Similarly, each house of Congress determines its own rules -- including the power to grant or deny permission to speak to a joint meeting. Remember just after the elections when some Republicans wanted to deny the President an opportunity to present his State of the Union message in person.

Congressional Republicans, with some Democratic support, are highly dubious of the value of a possible multinational deal with Iran to limit its nuclear programs. They want to pass a bill with increased sanctions despite a veto threat and other warnings that even prospective, conditional legislation could disrupt the talks and scuttle any agreement. [Even Israeli intelligence believes this.] Speaker Boehner consulted with the Israeli ambassador and decided to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint meeting on the topic of Iran on Febraruy 11. The administration was angry because the normal procedure is for foreign dignitaries to work out their travel with the executive branch even if they also might be invited to address Congress.

The visit serves GOP interests by demonstrating its tools for influencing US policy toward Iran. And it cleverly serves Netanyahu's interests since he has called elections for March 17, where his party is roughly tied with the main opposition in the polls. Last week he inissted on walking in the front row with other foreign leaders in the Charlie Hebdo memorial march in Paris.

Congress loves to show support for Israel. As the NYTimes reported after Netanyahu's last speech there in 2011:

The speech was so well received that the New York Times said, “Netanyahu received so many standing ovations that at times it appeared that the lawmakers were listening to his speech standing up.”

Stay tuned...

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