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Biden to miss Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress

Biden's office says trip during Netanyahu speech has been planned for 'a while'

Vice President Joe Biden won’t attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress next month, his office confirmed Friday, saying the vice president will be traveling abroad on a previously scheduled trip.

As president of the Senate, Biden is typically on hand to greet and listen in when any foreign leader addresses a joint session of Congress. He’s missed just one other such speech, the White House says.

His attendance at the March 3 speech has been watched closely. Netanyahu is expected to make a case against the administration’s negotiations with Iran on a nuclear deal. He was invited by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and accepted the invitation without telling the White House – a breach of protocol that has set off widespread criticism and aggravated already tense relations between President Obama and Netanyahu.

The White House has already said Obama won’t meet with the Israeli leader during the visit. It’s too close to Israel’s election and could be construed as meddling in another country's politics, the White House said. Some Democrats in Congress have said they are considering boycotting the speech.

The vice president’s office did not disclose where in the world Biden will be in early March.

“We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn't announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for a while,” a spokesman said in a statement. “We will announce additional information as soon as we are able.”

The vice president was also traveling abroad when Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke to Congress in 2011. Earlier this week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest stressed that Biden takes his duties as president of the Senate – even his ceremonial roles – “very seriously.”

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