House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday defended his decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress without White House approval, saying “there is nobody in the world” who can better talk about the threats posed by international terrorists and Iran.
In an interview aired by CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., made clear he intends to challenge President Barack Obama on foreign affairs and national security, warning that the threat of terrorism from al-Qaida and Islamic State militants is growing and Obama “is trying to act like it’s not there.”
Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress next month has provoked an intense fight with Obama and his aides, in part because the president and the Israeli prime minister have such a frosty relationship on key issues such as U.S.-led negotiations to persuade Iran to end its apparent efforts to build a nuclear bomb.
“There is nobody in the world who can talk about the threat of radical terrorism (and) the threat that the Iranians pose not just to the Middle East and Israel — our longest ally — but the entire world than Bibi Netanyahu,” Boehner said, using the prime minister’s nickname.
In sharp criticism of Obama’s State of the Union address last week, Boehner complained that the “president didn’t spend but a few seconds talking about the terrorist threat that we as Americans face.”
“This problem is growing all over the world,” Boehner said. “The president is trying to act like it’s not there. But it is there, and it’s going to be a threat to our homeland if we don’t address it in a bigger way.”
Boehner, who along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was interviewed by CBS’s Scott Pelley, said he gave the White House “a heads up” hours before he announced the invitation, which was issued one day after the State of the Union.
In another sign that Boehner has little confidence in the administration’s foreign policy, Boehner rejected Obama’s call to delay a bill that would impose new economic sanctions on Iran should negotiations fail to produce a settlement in the nuclear talks.
The U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China are engaged in intense nuclear negotiations with Iran, and White House aides fear a new round of sanctions would scuttle those talks.
But Boehner brushed aside those fears, saying he was “very concerned about the Iranians, the threat that they could be developing a nuclear weapon and I believe, and I think the House believes, that more sanctions — if they don’t come to an agreement — are in order.”
Boehner also lashed out at conservative critics — many allied with the tea party — who helped mount a challenge to him earlier this month when he was re-elected to a third term as speaker.
“Frankly, a lot is being driven by national groups here in Washington who have raised money and (are) just beating the dickens out of me,” Boehner said.
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