With all of the attention in the U.S. given to the recent election of French President Francois Hollande and his trip to the U.S. last week to attend the G-8 and NATO summits, there has been some speculation in Washington about the next visit of France’s first Socialist president in 17 years and if he will be invited to address a joint session of Congress.
The answer is that it is highly unlikely and, in fact, almost out of the question.
According to the Congressional Research Service, beginning with Charles DeGaulle after the founding of the French Fifth Republic in 1958, every President of France visiting the United States except one has addressed a joint session of Congress. The one French president who never addressed Congress was Francois Mitterand, the only Socialist until Hollande to hold the office. Mitterand, who is France’s longest serving president (1981-95), came to Washington often and met with three different U.S. presidents. But, Congress never invited him to speak to them.
One of the worst-kept secrets at the Obama White House is that, as he seeks re-election, the president would not be unhappy to have President Hollande pass on a second trip to Washington, D.C. With Obama’s opponents increasingly branding him a “socialist,” it obviously is not helpful to have him alongside someone who is not only a card-carrying Socialist, but was the general secretary (chairman) of the French Socialist Party for a decade before he was elected president.
In all likelihood, Democratic House and Senate Members facing the voters feel the same way.
“Technically it’s the speaker that invites the foreign leader to address a joint meeting of Congress,” Doug Andres, deputy communications director for the House Rules Committee, told Human Events, “then under the rules of the House, to officially convene a joint session of congress for the purpose of receiving a foreign leader, both Houses (House and Senate) must first agree to a Concurrent Resolution.”
Asked whether Speaker John Boehner was open to the idea of inviting Hollande to address Congress on his next trip to Washington, spokesman Michael Steel told us: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”