US Vice-President Mike Pence delays trip to Middle East for tax vote, amid uproar over Jerusalem decision

Vice-President Mike Pence's office said the trip was being delayed so he can stay in Washington until votes on the tax cut legislation are completed.
Vice-President Mike Pence's office said the trip was being delayed so he can stay in Washington until votes on the tax cut legislation are completed. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - The White House announced on Monday (Dec 18) that Vice-President Mike Pence is delaying a planned trip to the Middle East in case his vote is needed to pass tax legislation - a move that aslo comes amid uproar over the Trump administration's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Mr Pence was scheduled to leave on Tuesday, arriving in Egypt on Wednesday for a bilateral meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi. From there he was scheduled to visit Israel before traveling to Germany to meet with US troops stationed there.

Mr Pence's office said on Monday the trip was being delayed so he can stay in Washington until votes on the tax cut legislation are completed. He is now expected to travel to the Middle East during the week of Jan 14, according to senior White House officials.

"The largest tax cut in American history is a landmark accomplishment for President Trump and a relief to millions of hardworking Americans," said Mr Pence's press secretary Alyssa Farah.

"The Vice-President is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line. The Vice-President looks forward to traveling to Egypt and Israel in January."

Mr Pence would potentially have to break a tie vote in the Senate on the tax Bill, but that scenario become more remote on Monday after Senator Susan Collins announced her support for the Bill.

The Vice-President's trip has been complicated due to the uproar in the Middle East over President Trump's recent decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Earlier this month Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not meet with Mr Pence on his trip due to this announcement.

The Jerusalem decision - which also included eventually moving the US Embassy there - also sparked widespread opposition among Christians in the Middle East and complicated another aspect of Mr Pence's trip. The pope of the Egyptian Coptic church, who leads the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, also cancelled his planned meeting in Cairo with the Vice-President.