Tag Archives: Joint session of Congress

POTUS to speak to sparse ‘crowd’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Joe Biden campaigned for the presidency in the midst of a pandemic, meaning that he avoided staging big campaign rallies.

As president, he is getting set to speak to a joint session of Congress this week. Hmm. Guess what … the House of Representatives chamber will contain a fraction of the number of people who usually listen to these speeches.

The Cabinet won’t be there. Only the Supreme Court chief justice, John Roberts, will be present, with the rest of the court staying away. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley will represent the military brass. Members of the House and Senate will be there. First lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will be in the VIP section, but they will be virtually unaccompanied.

But … the event will show off a bit of history-making. Sitting behind President Biden will be two women: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.

I understand they’ll be masked up, as will the audience in the chamber.

An earlier blog post wondered how the partisans will react. Will they cheer the president’s arrival? Will they stand and applaud when Speaker Pelosi introduces him?

I am not going to obsess over things we cannot control. I am, however, going to applaud the precautions that the powers that be are taking to avoid creating one of those “super spreader” events.

After all, the pandemic is still raging.

Take the offer, Mr. POTUS

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Joe Biden has received an offer he cannot in good conscience refuse.

It came from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has invited Biden to speak to a joint session of Congress on April 28. Accept the invitation, Mr. President.

The speech won’t be a State of the Union address, per se. It would give the president a chance to speak to the nation all at once, seeking to lay out his legislative agenda and to keep a pledge he made to tell us “Help is On the Way.”

And it is.

The president has scored one key legislative triumph in the form of the COVID-19 relief bill. He wants more victories that he says will benefit Americans.

The Hill reported:¬†“Nearly 100 days ago, when you took the oath of office, you pledged in a spirit of great hope that ‘Help Is On The Way.’ Now, because of your historic and transformative leadership, Help Is Here!” Pelosi wrote in a letter inviting Biden to address both chambers.

“In that spirit, I am writing to invite you to address a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, to share your vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi invites Biden to address Congress on April 28 | TheHill

Joe Biden has a full plate of “challenges and opportunities” as he seizes control of our government’s executive branch.

My fervent hope is that he accepts the offer, agrees to speak to us directly, candidly and honestly. We keep hearing about the progress we are making in eliminating the pandemic. We see job creation accelerating after the battering our economy took in 2020 when the pandemic shut the nation down.

There’s more to do, to be sure.

Talk to us, Mr. President. Say “yes” to the speaker’s offer.

Get ready for Trump’s ‘coming-out’ speech

No, I don’t mean that kind of “coming out.”

However, I do mean that the president of the United States will step onto a significantly larger stage than ever before. The podium will be of, oh, standard size, I guess. He’ll be standing tonight¬†in front of a joint congressional session. The vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives will sit behind him.

The speaker will declare that “it is my high honor and privilege to introduce the president of the United States.”

Applause will fill the room. Donald J. Trump will begin his speech.

That’s when the pomp and pageantry ends and when we get a look at just how much he’s been able to “unify” the body to which he is speaking, let alone the country.

I don’t know about you but I’m going to look at a few external factors as Trump speaks … assuming, of course, that I can power through the entire event.

The Supreme Court justices will be there. Who among them will sit this one out? When Trump’s immediate predecessor spoke to these joint sessions, a couple of the court’s conservative justices — the late Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — famously were no-shows. One or both of them said they disliked having to sit there while everyone around them were clapping and cheering.

President Obama famously scolded the court for its 2010 ruling enabling corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. The justices had to take it. Personally, I thought the president was wrong to do so in that venue and it surely rankled the court majority that decided the infamous Citizens United case.

Who’s going to stay away from Trump’s speech? Will it be, say, one or two of the court’s liberal justices?

Who stands and claps and who sits? This is a fairly normal occurrence. Lawmakers of the president’s party usually clap and cheer at everything that comes out of the president’s mouth; those on the other side don’t.

Republicans didn’t much cheering for Barack Obama during the eight years he spoke to joint sessions. I rather doubt Democrats will, either, when Trump stands before them.

His defense-spending boost will be a big topic. He wants to spend $54 billion more on defense, ostensibly to “rebuild our military.” At what cost? Which domestic programs get the axe? Which Americans will feel the pain? Maintaining military strength usually is a non-partisan/bipartisan issue. Something tells me when the president gets around to that one, we won’t see much cheering from Democrats.

Will the president veer off topic? He’ll have a Teleprompter in front of him. He’ll be reading a prepared text. I have to wonder if Trump is going to be tempted to take off on one of his vaunted campaign-style riffs and rants about, oh, the size of his Electoral College victory, or about the “fake news” he says is being¬†peddled by the “mainstream media.”

I don’t expect to hear the names “Michael Flynn” or “Vladimir Putin” come from the president’s mouth. I don’t expect either¬†to hear him say the word “Russia.” Nor do I expect him to talk about things such as¬†the difficulty he is having assembling his government; key appointees keep dropping out for one reason or another.

But let’s get ready — ladies and gents, boys and girls — for an interesting show this evening, shall we?

Pass the popcorn … and the Pepto.

One more, and final time, for State of Union speech


Barack H. Obama is going to get one more chance as president of the United States to lay out his vision of the state of our Union.

On Jan. 12, he’ll take the podium in front of a joint session of Congress and tell us how he thinks we’re doing, where we’ve been, where we’re headed and likely will propose a laundry list of legislative solutions to the nagging problems that never seem to get cured.

This is it, Mr. President. My advice to you, though, is this: Don’t expect to change any minds or sway anyone’s view of the job you’ve done.

Republicans will continue to say the president has all but destroyed American greatness — single-handedly. Democrats will hail the achievements and the rescuing of the nation from¬†a financial collapse.

I happen to belong to the latter category of Americans. Yeah, it’s a shock, I know.

This final State of the Union speech by President Obama will produce the usual applause dominated by the Democrats in the chamber. Republicans will sit on their hands … for the most part while their Democratic “friends” cheer and holler.

While there’s no denying that the world is in difficult straits right now in this fight against international terrorism, there also can be no denying that the American ship of state has corrected its course in the seven years since Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office.

The economy is in far better shape than before. Our annual budget deficit has shrunk by two-thirds. Energy production is up; energy imports are down. Housing has rebounded. Banks are lending money. More people are working today than they were in 2009. Millions of Americans have health insurance now who didn’t have it before.

And oh yes, we’ve been kept safe from terrorists. There’s that, too.

That’s not the view of those who oppose the president.

But what the heck? It goes with the territory.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was correct in his letter inviting the president to speak. They have a duty to find solutions together, he said. Yes, Mr. Speaker, you do.

It’s time to get busy.

Meanwhile, the president will get one more shot at telling the country he leads what many of us out here already know.

The state of our Union truly is strong. We’ve got work to do, but our footing is a lot firmer than it was when the president took office.


Bibi's speech proves Barack's point

Barack Obama had it pegged. Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech today before a joint congressional session will play well in Israel and because of the proximity to the upcoming election, it was totally inappropriate for the Israeli prime minister to make such a speech in that venue.


But the prime minister today delivered a blistering attack on President Obama’s Iran policy. Was he correct? Is a possible deal to stop Iran’s nuclear enrichment program so bad that it puts the Middle East in more danger of an Iranian nuclear weapons development?

Netanyahu says it will. Does he know more than anyone else on the planet? That’s debatable, to say the very least.

Today’s speech was not intended to disrespect the president, Netanyahu had promised. I’m afraid it did what he said it wouldn’t do. He suggested that the United States does not understand the Iranian threat.¬†I would submit that the United States understands all too well how mercurial the Islamic Republic of Iran can be at many levels.

Mr. Prime Minister, surely you recall the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80.

Well, the White House didn’t want Netanyahu to speak, citing the juxtaposition of the speech and the upcoming Israeli elections. The United States is now going to be seen as playing a part in influencing the election. It’s long been customary to forgo such speeches.

None of that mattered to Speaker John Boehner, who extended the invitation without consulting with the White House. Nor did it matter to Netanyahu, who accepted the invitation understanding the firestorm it would create.

I remain confident that U.S.-Israeli relations will remain strong. President Obama says it is unbreakable; Prime Minister Netanyahu¬†says the nations are like “family.”

This speech, though, has caused a significant rift between these allies.

The time to heal that rift is at hand.


Partisanship has no place in foreign policy

OK, one more attempt at making sense of this Bibi blowup and I’ll move on.

It’s being reported that about a quarter of congressional Democrats are going to stay away from the speech Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make before a joint session of Congress.


Democrats are angry that Republican Speaker John Boehner invited Bibi to speak without consulting with the White House. I get their anger. It is infuriating that Boehner would flout longstanding diplomatic protocol by inviting a foreign head of government in such a manner.

Netanyahu, in remarks today to a pro-Israel group, said he doesn’t want to become the object of partisan scorn in Washington. Indeed, such partisanship shouldn’t be an issue when we’re talking about foreign policy matters.

Who, though, turned it into a partisan event? I’ll go with Boehner, who stuck it in the president’s eye in the way he invited Netanyahu. The prime minister opposes negotiations to get Iran to stop its nuclear development program; he favors tougher sanctions on Iran now, along with Boehner and most Republicans; Obama opposes the sanctions; and the president is miffed over the invitation issue.

None of this means the United States and Israel are going to part company.¬†Netanyahu will affirm the nations’ close ties Tuesday, just as¬†he did today.

The partisan nature of the protest, though, smacks more of petulance than anything else.

I’ll say it again: Democrats should listen to Bibi¬†in person and give him the¬†respect that the leader of¬†our nation’s strongest Middle East ally deserves.


Let's hear Bibi make his point

Allow me to call him “Bibi,” OK?

He is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, aka Bibi. He’s going to speak Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. I am opposed to the way he was asked to speak —¬†invited by¬†Speaker John Boehner without giving the White House a heads up, thus violating a longstanding rule of diplomacy.


But now that he’s coming, let’s hear what he has to say.

A key Republican congressman, Mike Rogers of Michigan, and Michael Doran, a policy wonk at the Hudson Institute, have written an essay laying out the reasons for hearing the prime minister’s remarks.

The chief reason, according to Rogers and Doran, is that Bibi’s speech will spark an important debate about how to deal with Iran and its desire to develop a nuclear program — and virtually everyone agrees means a nuclear weapons program.

Rogers and Doran are incorrect in asserting that President Barack Obama is indifferent about fighting the bad guys of this world. They are correct, though, in suggesting that Bibi is making a courageous stand against his country’s arch-enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

My main problem with his speech is its timing, given that the United States is in the middle of negotiations with Iran to end is nuclear program development.

Still, the prime minister is a key world leader with a vested interest in a permanent Middle East peace.

It cannot happen if Iran develops a nuclear bomb. Let’s hear what Bibi has to say.


Rift in U.S. foreign policy team?

John Kerry says Benjamin Netanyahu is “welcome to speak” in the United States.

Susan Rice calls an upcoming speech by Netanyahu “destructive.”

Who is correct, the secretary of state or the Obama administration’s national security adviser?

I’ll put my money on Secretary Kerry.


Netanyahu is going to speak Tuesday to a joint congressional session about Iran. President Obama wishes he wouldn’t make the speech; Obama has no plans to meet with Netanyahu while the Israeli prime minister is in this country — at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner.

Bibi’s talk will center on Iran’s desire to develop a nuclear program, which critics say — correctly, in my view — is a precursor to the Islamic Republic seeking a nuclear weapon. Israel doesn’t want the Iranians to have a nuke. Neither does the United States.

However, let’s stipulate something. The United States prides itself on freedom of expression. It extends that freedom to friendly foreign dignitaries. Set aside reports of serious tension between Netanyahu and Obama over this upcoming speech and consider that the two nations remain ironclad allies.

Kerry said the relationship, “in terms of security,” has never been stronger.

Let’s hear what the prime minister has to say.

Democrats wrong to boycott Bibi's speech

It’s probably too late to change anyone’s mind, but it’s never too late to drive home a point that needs to be made.

Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu’s audience as he speaks to a joint session of Congress this week will be missing about 30 congressional Democrats, who’ve decided to boycott the speech for a couple of reasons.


One is that House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation of Netanyahu was done without consulting the White House. What’s more, Boehner wants the United States to impose sanctions on Iran, which is negotiating with other nations on a possible deal to end its nuclear development; Netanyahu is expected to make that case during his speech to Congress — which the White House doesn’t want to happen.

The other is that the invitation injects the United States into Israeli politics, given that Netanyahu’s governing coalition is facing an election shortly. President Obama has said it’s inappropriate to invite a foreign head of government to make such a speech so close to an election in his or her country.

Democrats shouldn’t boycott the speech. They should sit there, applaud politely, listen to Netanyahu and then decide whether they agree with whatever he says.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said, ‚ÄúI will not dignify it by being here.¬†It is an unfortunate incursion into Israeli politics.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúAs a long-time supporter of the U.S-Israel relationship, I believe the timing of Prime Minister Netanyahu‚Äôs address to Congress ‚ÄĒ just days before Israeli elections ‚ÄĒ is highly inappropriate,‚ÄĚ U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.,¬†said in a statement. ‚ÄúI am disappointed that, as of now, the speech has not been postponed. For this reason, I will not attend the speech.‚ÄĚ

I don’t think Boehner’s invitation was appropriate, either. I also disagree with the idea of imposing sanctions at the very time we’re seeking a negotiated settlement on whether Iran should pursue its nuclear program. Let the negotiations run their course; if they fail, then drop the sanctions hammer.

But the Israeli prime minister is a key U.S. ally — the current spat notwithstanding. His standing among world leaders compels his foes to sit and listen to his message.

Having said all that, it’s good to know that the absent lawmakers will have access to TV, radio and the Internet to hear the prime minister’s remarks.

Be sure to listen.


U.S.-Israel spat getting more serious

The quarreling between the United States and Israel has me conflicted on a couple of levels … maybe even more of them.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech next week before a joint congressional session should not occur. He accepted an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner that was a serious breach of longstanding diplomatic protocol; Boehner extended the invitation without consulting with the president and the White House. President Obama is rightfully ticked off at the speaker for extending the invitation and is angry at the prime minister for accepting it.


Second, Netanyahu plans to lobby Congress to impose more sanctions on Iran while that country is negotiating a potential end to its nuclear program development. Obama has said repeatedly that Iran must not develop nuclear weapons and has vowed to keep Iran from obtaining them. He’s seeking a negotiated settlement to that end. Netanyahu and Boehner are trying to undermine that effort. Bad call, Bibi and Mr. Speaker.

Third, a growing number of Democratic lawmakers are planning to boycott the speech next week. That, too, is a bad call. As much as I oppose the invitation and the proposed contend of the prime minister’s speech, I think it’s bad form for U.S lawmakers to stay away. Hear the prime minister out, extend your hand, give him the respect that a visiting head of government deserves.

I understand Netanyahu’s angst regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Islamic Republic of Iran has declared its intention to wipe Israel off the map. The Israelis, of course, don’t want that to occur. Israel’s standing as the chief U.S. ally in the Middle East gives the Israelis a unique place.

However, Netanyahu and Boehner broke with diplomatic decorum — and don’t for an instant underestimate its importance — with this invitation and the manner in which it was offered.

The worst aspect of it is the effect it might have on sensitive negotiations that well could produce a safer Middle East.

There’s some word of a possible deal in the works that would put the clamps on nuclear development for at least 10 years; then there could be a gradual easing of restrictions. The “easing” part is troublesome, but the international community can remain on high alert in the years ahead to any notion that Iran might be kick-starting its ambition to develop nuclear weapons.

My hope is that the fiery rhetoric coming out of Washington and Jerusalem can be tempered. The two nations remain bound together by many more common interests than differences. Obama and Netanyahu have affirmed as much many times during their sometimes-testy relationship.

Who knows? Maybe Netanyahu’s speech before Congress next week can be reworked and dialed back to recognize the importance of the negotiations that seek to end Iran’s nuclear program.

Shall we hope for the best?