There will be no "boycott" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before Congress next month, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
But while she downplayed reports of an organized protest, she suggested some lawmakers might just be too busy to attend. And at least two Democrats have already decided they won't be on hand.
"I don't think anybody should use the word 'boycott,'" Pelosi said in her weekly press conference. "When these heads of state come, people are here doing their work, they're trying to pass legislation, they're meeting with their constituents and the rest. It's not a high-priority item for them."
The Netanyahu address has drawn sharp criticism from Democrats, who view the invitation from House Speaker John Boehner as a means of undermining the Obama administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Israeli leader, many congressional Republicans, and some Democrats favor increased sanctions, but Obama has asked them to hold off until member nations of the U.N. Security Council can try to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions at the bargaining table.
At least two Democrats have now confirmed publicly that they won't attend. Reps. John Lewis and G.K. Butterfield both said Thursday they would skip the speech, according to the Associated Press. "I think it's an affront to the president and the State Department what the speaker did," Lewis told AP, while Butterfield said he was "very disappointed the speaker would cause such a ruckus" with the invite.