Newspaper article Roll Call

Some Democrats May Skip It, but Netanyahu Speech Is Still a Hot Ticket

Newspaper article Roll Call

Some Democrats May Skip It, but Netanyahu Speech Is Still a Hot Ticket

Article excerpt

In fact, he said he has a meeting with delegates from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee scheduled for the same time as Netanyahu's address, and Yarmuth said he figured he'd watch the address with those delegates in his Capitol Hill office.

But when the cameras cut away from Netanyahu at the dais and pan across the House floor, they aren't likely to catch many empty seats, which would have been the starkest symbol of discontent.

It is a longstanding practice for congressional aides -- even pages -- to sit on the floor alongside lawmakers during any potentially ill-attended joint sessions of Congress to "make it look good for whoever's speaking," according to Rep. Steve Cohen, D- Tenn., another Jewish representative who said he would not "be a potted plant" for Netanyahu's address.

"There are more Republican staffers than there are Democrats," said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who won't attend the address next week. "I'm sure they'll fill the seats."

There are also the guests of members of Congress who populate the visitors' galleries that hover above the House floor. Yarmuth recalled traveling to Israel in 2011, shortly after the last Netanyahu address on Capitol Hill, where Israeli men and women he encountered were thoroughly bewildered by the wild applause for their relatively unpopular prime minister.

"I said, 'Well, all the AIPAC people were all in the gallery,' Yarmuth chuckled. "That's the kind of circus that surrounds all this."

Watch a live stream of the speech Tuesday at RollCall.com

Plenty of outsiders -- from lobbyists to constituents -- are eager to see Netanyahu speak; an aide for Speaker John A. Boehner told CQ Roll Call that at least 350 requests are being fielded by the Ohio Republican's office.

"I don't expect many empty seats on the floor," the aide said. …

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