Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his planned trip to Egypt and Israel until the US tax reform gets through Congress, the White House has announced.
The announcement comes amid outrage over the US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, though officials say the delay is not due to the Jerusalem decision.
The White House confirmed on Monday that the trip has been delayed due to a Republican push to pass the largest tax overhaul in decades this week.
Pence could be expected to cast the tie-breaking vote on the tax plan in the Senate, but that now seems unlikely as Republicans say they have the votes to pass the reform.
“The largest tax cut in American history is a landmark accomplishment for President Trump and a relief to millions of hardworking Americans,” Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence’s office, said in a statement.
“The vice president is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line,” she added. “The vice president looks forward to travelling to Egypt and Israel in January.”
The delay comes at a time the US is facing widespread backlash over Trump‘s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.
The decision sparked protests throughout the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.
A leading Muslim leader in Egypt rejected a meeting request by Pence’s team prior to the delay, saying Trump must reverse his decision on Jerusalem, Reuters news agency reported.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, said he had declined a meeting with the US vice president, according to a statement by the mosque.
The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Church also cancelled his meeting with Pence, in protest of the US move.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had also said he would not meet Pence during his trip. In October, Pence’s office said the vice president was scheduled to make a stop in the occupied West Bank during the visit.
But after Trump’s decision earlier this month on Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority declined the meeting.
Jibril Rajoub, a senior politician of Abbas’ Fatah party, said “we will not receive him [Pence] in the Palestinian territories”.
According to Reuters news agency, White House officials said that the decision to delay Pence’s trip was not related to the criticism over Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.
The announcement from Pence’s office came on the same day the US vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that would have rejected “decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem”.
The draft resolution was backed on Monday by the 14 other Security Council members, including many US allies.
The vote in the Senate on the tax reform bill could come as early Tuesday evening.