Freshmen Congress members travel to Israel ahead of Iran vote

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Freshmen Congress members will tour Israel with their party leaders and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Congress gears up to consider an Iran nuclear deal Netanyahu vehemently opposes.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the U.S. House of Representatives Minority Whip, will lead another 21 House Democrats on a tour of Israel Aug. 4-10, his office said Monday in a statement.

“This trip gives members of Congress an important opportunity to see the region first-hand and to meet with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which will give them a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the Middle East today, along with American interests in the region,” Hoyer said in the statement. His delegation also will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Hill reported that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House Majority Leader, will lead about 20 GOP freshmen on a similar trip next week. McCarthy’s office did not respond to a query for comment.


Freshmen trips, sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, routinely take place in non-election years during the August recess.

This year, the meetings come ahead of a vote by Congress in mid-late September over whether to disapprove of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached July 14 between Iran and six world powers.

Netanyahu wants Congress to kill the deal, while President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any legislation that would reject it.

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., who introduced the motion to disapprove the deal, on Monday was quoted by the Washington Times as saying he is confident the bill will be defeated.

“The more time members spend evaluating this agreement, the more they realize it’s an historic mistake,” he said.

With Republicans controlling Congress and for the most part opposing the deal, Roskam is likely right. However, the Obama administration believes it can keep bill opponents from mustering the two-thirds majorities needed in both chambers to override Obama’s promised veto.

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