All but one of New York City’s all-Democratic congressional delegation attended Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday, including one who said that he would not be there the day before and another who was undecided until the night before.
Most of the opposition — which angered the Obama administration since Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu without consulting them — came from the Congressional Black Caucus, which was co-founded by Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem.
Rangel had said he would not attend but reconsidered at the last minute. This came after activists spoke with him at the AIPAC convention Monday night in Washington.
On Tuesday he tweeted, “I still don’t agree w/procedure & politics behind Bibi’s speech but at request of constituents & friends I’ve decided to attend.”
Rep. Yvette Clarke, a member of the Caucus from Midwood, had remained undecided until the AIPAC convention, when a conversation with Leon Goldenberg and Chaskel Bennett, both of whom are her constituents, convinced her to go. Bennett said that he discussed with her that regardless of how the speech was initiated, its topic — the dangers of an imminent nuclear deal with Iran — was too serious to be decided based on politics.
After discussions with Bennett and Goldenberg, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Coney Island decided to go early on.
“It is encouraging for us to see members of Congress debate the issues with their constituents, weigh the divergent views and come up with a decision that makes sense,” Goldenberg and Bennett said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Sadly, we Americans have not always experienced moral clarity from our elected officials, but we as a community should be grateful to Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and, yes, Yvette Clarke, for ultimately deciding to hear out the Israeli prime minister and respecting the viewpoint of their constituents.”
The only congressman from New York City who did not attend was Gregory Meeks of Brooklyn.
The sole absent Republican, Michael Grimm of Staten Island, resigned his seat last month after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion charges.