As Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress today, controversy continues to rage over whether House speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) should have invited him without consulting Obama.
As it happens, Boehner did alert the White House an hour before the speech was announced. Whether or not that counts as consultation is an open question.
It’s worth noting though that Congress is a separate and co-equal branch of government. If Congress wants to hear someone speak, it does not have to get permission first from Obama or anyone else in the White House. At some point in the near future, Congress, or at least the Senate, may have to approve or reject whatever deal Obama makes with Iran. America’s duly-elected legislators have every right and power to summon whomever they wish to give them information and perspectives to help them make decisions on any such agreement, as well as broader American policy on the Middle East.
Bibi accepted an invitation extended to him by Boehner. Bibi was under no obligation to check and see if Obama “approved” of Congress’ invitation. Bibi is the most blameless character in this story.
If the prime minister were trying to weedle his way onto the House podium without permission, I would be all for keeping him from speaking, or at least for legislators boycotting his appearance. But as it happens, Bibi was asked to address both houses of Congress. And both houses of Congress he should and shall address. Members of both parties and both chambers should listen to his outlook and then meditate on and debate the merits of his message.
This is how democracies operate.
If Obama can’t handle that, he can ask to address a joint session of Congress and offer his own views on how to handle Iran and the rest of the blazing inferno that we affectionately call the Middle East.
If the president does not appreciate the fact that Boehner did not consult him before making a decision, perhaps he now knows how Congress feels about his relentless rule by decree. Obama did not consult Congress before issuing his executive orders on amnesty, nor on the numerous unilateral changes he made to Obamacare. As he himself is fond of saying, he’s “gone around Congress” numerous times, as a matter of course.
Indeed, Obama plans to structure his intended atomic agreement with Iran in such a way that Congress cannot approve or reject it, either. As he has so many times before, the president hopes to issue an Iran deal like a pronouncement from the throne.
So, before the administration continues its tantrum over not being consulted, it should consider consulting Congress when it wants new laws written or old laws revised.
This is how we do things in America. Obama should leave the decrees to his friends in Tehran.