Credit where it’s due: Not in the darkest corners of my partisan heart did I think liberals would have the balls to complain about Congress stepping on executive prerogatives after the years-long dump Obama’s been taking on separation of powers. You would think, after he unilaterally suspended the employer mandate in ObamaCare, ordered not one but two enormous amnesties for illegals, and, oh yeah, launched multiple wars without seeking Congress’s authorization, that Democrats would tolerate or even expect that Boehner might not be a stickler about observing traditional courtesies between the branches. Turns out they’re quite surprised by his affront. Via Breitbart, watch below as Jen Psaki calls it an “episode of the bizarre.” Obama’s handing out work permits to people who are here illegally under U.S. law and Boehner’s invite is “bizarre”?
He didn’t consult with the White House before extending the invitation, and administration officials are not happy. Press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday afternoon that Boehner’s invitation is a breach of normal diplomatic protocol. Typically, a nation’s leader would contact the White House before planning a visit to the United States, he said. The White House heard about the invite from Boehner’s office, not from the Israelis.
According to pool reports, Earnest called the invite “interesting,” and when asked if the White House was annoyed because Boehner did not reach out first, he said, “No.”…
However, this isn’t the first time a House speaker has reached out to a world leader despite a White House request to stay back. In April 2007, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syria to meet with President Bashar al-Assad despite the Bush administration’s objections. Pelosi wanted to start a dialogue with Syria, as diplomatic relations had broken down in the 1990s; President George W. Bush rejected such negotiation, saying, “Sending delegations doesn’t work.”
Speaking of Pelosi, she’s mad at Boehner today too — not for breaking with White House protocol but for breaking with protocol within Congress.
“When I was — also when I was minority leader and became one of the four leaders, it was clear always that if we wanted — if we had a suggestion about a head of state to come, that it was something that had to — you passed around the four top leaders,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference today…
Pelosi said Boehner has “awesome power” in his position as speaker, but “that power is not to be squandered.”
“It’s hubris to say, you know, ‘I rule; I’ll decide.’ And without any sensitivity to the fact that an [Israeli] election is taking two weeks — and within two weeks, the invitation I get is for the 3rd of March and the election is the — what? — the 17th, something like that. And also the fact that what is the purpose of it. Is the purpose to come and talk about sanctions? To talk about a policy in opposition to the policy that our president has just put forth in his State of the Union address and that has been in operation for many months?”
Yeah, again, it’s awfully late in the day to be complaining about hubris and comity inside Congress. The only reason Obama gets away with his far more hubristic encroachments on legislative power is because congressional Democrats are happy to back him up. For Pelosi’s caucus, partisan interests trump constitutional and institutional ones. Boehner deciding not to run an invite past her before announcing it is the mildest possible rebuke to that sort of betrayal. And that’s just the House: You know all about how Harry Reid locked Republicans out of the amendment process in the Senate, then turned around and blew up their filibuster for presidential appointees. There is no “protocol” after partisan aggression like that. I’m amazed Pelosi could suggest there is with a straight face.
Let’s hope the Netanyahu invitation is just the first of many, then. One minor but symbolic way that Boehner can strike back at Obama’s executive overreach is to invite various western leaders to speak whose own policies align more with Congress’s than the White House’s. First invitee, obviously, should be Stephen Harper to discuss the benefits of building the Keystone pipeline. Next invite goes to French prime minister Manuel Valls, who declared war on an enemy that our own leaders are now afraid to name. Third invite could go to Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who’ll have an interesting view, I’ll bet, on whether Obama was right in the SOTU that we’re making gains against ISIS in Syria. If Boehner can’t stop Obama from blowing up separation of powers, he could at least invite foreign dignitaries to reality-check him.
Oh, incidentally, Obama’s refusing to meet with Netanyahu during his visit, ostensibly for the same reason Pelosi gave, i.e. that a presidential audience so soon before Israel’s elections might affect the outcome. Laying aside the fact that, as Noah says, being shunned by O is far more likely to help Netanyahu back home than doing a photo op with him would be, where did they get the idea that we don’t meddle in Israel’s elections? We do it all the time.