Kenyan President’s Speech Invitation to Congress Denied, Democrats Frustrated

House Democrats express frustration towards Speaker​ Mike Johnson’s⁢ decision to not invite Kenyan President William ⁢Ruto to address Congress,‌ calling it⁤ a missed ⁢opportunity and a ​snub⁢ to the significance of⁢ the state visit.⁤ Despite requests by lawmakers, Ruto will not speak at a ⁣joint session, unlike⁣ previous foreign leaders.‌ The invitation was declined ‌due to scheduling conflicts. House Democrats ⁤are frustrated with Speaker Mike Johnson’s choice​ not to extend ​an⁣ invitation to Kenyan President William Ruto to ⁤speak before Congress. This decision is viewed as a missed ⁢opportunity and a disregard for the importance of the state visit. Despite pleas from legislators, Ruto⁤ will ⁤not address a joint session, citing scheduling conflicts for the declined invitation.

House Democrats are frustrated with Speaker Mike Johnson‘s (R-LA) decision not to invite Kenyan President William Ruto to address a joint session of Congress, with some calling it a “slap in the face” to what the historic state visit symbolizes.

Ruto will be the first African leader to receive a state visit this week since 2008, when then-President George W. Bush invited Ghanaian President John Kufuor to the United States. However, unlike several other foreign leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Ruto will not deliver a speech on the House floor.

House Foreign Affairs ranking member Gregory Meeks (D-NY) expressed disappointment with Johnson on Wednesday, saying after he had conversations with the speaker, he was told by Johnson that “it was a matter of time.”

“But when I see that we don’t have votes on a Friday, and we’re going to have first votes at 2:30 tomorrow, it’s clear it was time for President Ruto to joint session,” Meeks told reporters, adding that the U.S. needs to be “more involved in Africa than ever.”

“There hasn’t been an African head of state joint session in 20 years,” the New York Democrat added. “So I want to know why we couldn’t get that done.”

Kenya’s President William Ruto, right, and first lady Rachel Ruto arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024, for a state visit to the United States. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Ruto’s state visit began on Monday with a trip to Atlanta, and he arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Wednesday. The Kenyan president’s state visit is the sixth hosted by the Biden administration and Kenya’s third state visit to the U.S. since its independence.

The Kenyan president has been internationally known as the subject of a 13-year International Criminal Court investigation into the violence that broke out in Kenya after the 2007 presidential election, during which he was serving as then-deputy president. He and then-President Uhuru Kenyatta were charged but never convicted, and the ICC announced late last year it would halt its long-running inquiry into the incident as it investigates the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas conflicts.

Like others who offered condolences, Ruto drew some scrutiny recently after he posted on X commemorating the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Ruto called Raisi a “fearless leader and a dedicated public servant” who sought to “elevate Iran’s standing on the global stage.” He noted Kenya and Iran shared “cordial relations,” particularly after Raisi selected Kenya for his first-ever trip to Africa.

Meeks joined House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) in writing a letter to Johnson on May 1 asking him to send a formal invitation to Ruto to address Congress in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Kenyan-U.S. diplomatic relationship.

According to Meeks, Johnson told him he declined to invite Ruto to speak before Congress due to a “scheduling issue” and that instead, the speaker wants to get appropriations bills done.

“And that does not seem to be the case,” Meeks said.

“We’ve got so many things that we’ve been working with Kenya, you know, we’re doing that is tremendously important, like trying to help even in Haiti, for example,” Meeks said. “So it’s just a, you know, it’s just a missed opportunity and a slap in the face.”

In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Taylor Haulsee, communications director for Johnson, confirmed that scheduling conflicts were the cause of a lack of invitation.

“Speaker Johnson welcomes President Ruto to the Capitol,” Haulsee said in a statement. “We have offered the Kenyan embassy over 90 minutes of engagement including a one-on-one visit with Speaker Johnson, bipartisan leadership meeting with Speaker Johnson, Leader Jeffries, and Committee Chairmen and Ranking members, and a bicameral meeting. Unfortunately, due to scheduling restraints, we could not accommodate a request for remarks before a Joint Session.”

Ruto’s lack of a joint session of Congress invite also comes as Johnson said on Wednesday that he expects Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to sign on to a letter inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, with an agreement possibly arriving this week.

Meeks said he is not focusing on a possible speech from Netanyahu and is instead concerned with the absence of one from Ruto. However, he said, “We should not make Israel a political issue.”

“And that’s what my concern is,” Meeks said.

Other Democrats have expressed frustration with Johnson’s decision not to invite Ruto to speak. Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-CA) echoed Meeks’s comments on Tuesday, saying they are a reflection of where he believes the Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Democratic caucus stand on the issue, as well.

“It’s unfortunate that Speaker Johnson didn’t allow the president of Kenya to address us,” Aguilar said to the Washington Examiner. “An African leader hasn’t addressed Congress in nearly 20 years. It’s time.”


Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard E. Neal (D-MA) said in early May that he was disappointed with the speaker’s “failure” to offer Ruto an invitation to address Congress, arguing that he does not see why the Kenyan leader’s state visit should be treated “any different” than the visits from India and Japan.

“Africa and its people helped shape our great nation, allowing it to become the superpower that it is today,” Neal said. “Strengthening ties across the continent, including with a key strategic partner, Kenya, is of great importance to our shared economic aspirations and democratic values. The continent deserves the same level of respect given to our partners in other parts of the world.”

" Conservative News Daily does not always share or support the views and opinions expressed here; they are just those of the writer."

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