US & Canada

John Boehner invites Netanyahu to Congress on Iran

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) prepares to speak to the media after a conference meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington 21 January 2015 Image copyright Reuters

US House Speaker John Boehner has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress on Iran.

The move is seen as a rebuke to President Barack Obama's threat to veto any additional sanctions on the country during his State of the Union address.

The White House has said it believes new sanctions will be harmful to negotiations on its nuclear programme.

Mr Boehner also criticised the president's other proposals, including a tax hike for the rich.

He confirmed on Wednesday he had invited Mr Netanyahu to speak to Congress "on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life".

The Speaker accused Mr Obama of "papering over" the threat of both militant Islamic groups and Iran's nuclear programme in his speech.

During the address, Mr Obama had called on Congress to pass a resolution to authorise the use of force against the Islamic State militant group and said he would veto any bill that offered new sanctions on Iran.

On Wednesday a White House spokesman said the move breached "typical protocol" but the administration would reserve judgment until the Israelis had outlined their plans.

Analysis: Jon Sopel, BBC North America editor

Fascinating that Mr Boehner's first act since the State of the Union is to invite Mr Netanyahu to address Congress on the subject of Iran's nuclear ambitions. He doesn't trust Iran, and believes the west is about to make an historic mistake in trusting Tehran to show good faith on the country's nuclear ambitions.

Last night Barack Obama was arguing that negotiations were at a delicate stage with Tehran over a deal. A deal that would be jeopardised, he believes, by Congress voting for tougher sanctions against Iran at this stage.

It's also the subject that British Prime Minister David Cameron got involved in when he was meeting the president in Washington last week - he phoned a number of Senators (which I understand Obama's closest advisors were delighted about) to argue that tougher sanctions would destabilise the talks.

On this bit of foreign policy it is clear there is profound mistrust between Congress and the White House - and the decision to invite Mr Netanyahu - a man who has the most testy relationship with the president - must be seen as a poke in the eye to Barack Obama

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Netanyahu (right) has warned a deal over Iran's nuclear programme would put Israeli at risk
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Obama delivered his address to a joint session of the US Congress

Six world powers want Iran to curb its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

An interim deal was struck in November 2013 but deadlines for a comprehensive deal have since been missed.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly warned a deal with Iran could threaten Israel's security. The Israeli Prime Minister has not officially responded to the invitation.

In a speech devised to appeal to working families, Mr Obama outlined his strategy for "middle-class economics".

Mr Obama said he planned to build on the country's economic growth by offering working families with help in the form of sick and maternity leave and affordable childcare, as well as to offer free community college for some students.

But the plans are unlikely to make it past a Republican-controlled Congress.

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Media captionThe BBC's Katty Kay says battle lines are clearly drawn

On Wednesday, Republicans criticised the president for his economic proposals and for the speech's veto threats.

"All the president really offered was more taxes, more government, more of the same approach that has failed the middle class for decades," Mr Boehner told reporters.

Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the tax-writing committee, said: "He knows we're not going to raise taxes. So I'm kind of surprised he paid lip service to that."

At the centre of Mr Obama's tax proposal is an increase in the tax rate on investment gains for couples making more than $500,000 (£330,000) annually, higher taxes on some estates and fees for financial firms with assets more than $50bn.

Republican took control of both chambers of Congress at the beginning of January after winning majorities in the November midterm elections.

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