WASHINGTON – A Republican congressman wants to prevent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from meeting with foreign leaders in countries sponsoring terrorism but Democrats say the move is just a "cheap political stunt."
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, wants to limit Pelosi's travel to foreign countries through an amendment tacked onto an appropriations bill for the State Department and foreign operations. King sent out a release Thursday titled "Who will she meet next? Hezbollah? Hamas? Ahmadinejad?" in a request to lawmakers to support his amendment.
The amendment, likely up for debate on the House floor Thursday night, is a "cheap political stunt that just won't fly," Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement.
A House Democratic aide echoed that response, also calling the amendment "nothing more than a cheap political stunt." Pelosi supporters also point out that none of the speaker's travel is funded through this appropriations bill anyway.
King's amendment proposes limiting funds for travel by the House speaker to countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.
"None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used to fund or support travel by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria," the amendment reads.
Pelosi came under fire in April when she visited Syria and other Middle East countries. President Bush criticized Pelosi's trip, saying it was counterproductive and sent the wrong message.
Pelosi became the highest-ranking American politician to visit Syria since relations began to deteriorate in 2003.
But Republican lawmakers have also visited Syria and other countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill traveled to North Korea for direct talks about the country's nuclear program. Hill's visit marks the highest-level U.S. official to visit the North Korean capital since October 2002.
Pelosi's office pointed to Hill's visit as an example of a U.S. official visiting with foreign officials.
"How can anyone take this amendment seriously, especially when it comes on the same day that Bush administration officials are in North Korea?" Elshami said. "And why would anyone think it is responsible to restrict the ability of the speaker of the House to bring the concerns of the American people to foreign leaders? It is part of the speaker's job."