Updated Jun 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: GOP lawmaker calls for families of hostages to be invited to Bibi address

 Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the U.S. Capitol

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) leaves a meeting of the House Republican Conference. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) is calling on Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to invite the families of U.S. hostages in Gaza to attend an address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a letter first provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Congressional leaders formally invited Netanyahu to give a rare joint-address to Congress last week — a decision cheered by Republicans that drew jeers from some Democrats.

  • The speech is expected in the coming weeks.

What he's saying: "Since the outbreak of the war, Israel has continuously expressed that victory is only possible once the freedom of every single hostage taken by Hamas is secured. We cannot lose sight of that fact," Mast wrote in a letter sent Monday to House and Senate leadership.

  • Mast noted that more than 130 hostages are still being held by Hamas — including at least six U.S. citizens.
  • "I ask that you make special accommodations for the families of these Americans so that they may attend Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to Congress."

The big picture: The Biden administration has repeatedly pushed for a ceasefire-hostage deal with Hamas to bring the remaining Americans home — most recently in a speech President Biden delivered Friday.

  • U.S. officials told Axios that Biden's speech was intended to mobilize international support for the proposal and increase pressure on Hamas to take the deal.
  • If Hamas turns down the proposal, a ceasefire would be off the table and the crisis in Gaza would likely escalate, the officials said.
  • Hamas has recently said it won't resume negotiations if Israel doesn't first stop the war.

Between the lines: Most of the hostage families — especially the Americans — are highly critical of Netanyahu and appreciate the support and attention provided them by the Biden administration, Axios' Barak Ravid notes.

  • A spokesperson for Speaker Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.
  • A Schumer spokesperson said the leader does not control access to the House chamber, but that they'll "work to invite guests once a joint meeting is scheduled."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional reporting.

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