From The Morning Grind
Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki, front, on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Congressional leaders this morning as controversy continued to precede his speech to a joint meeting of the House and Senate.
A group of Democrats have called on House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) to rescind al-Maliki's invitation to address Congress, because he has condemned Israel in its ongoing conflict with Hezbollah. Hastert denied the request and this morning, with al-Maliki at his side, said "we are very honored today to have the Iraqi Prime Minister with us."
Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who also met with the Iraqi Prime Minister, released a statement praising him for having "a strong vision for the future of his country.
"The Prime Minister has worked hard to form a consensus government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people, and America will stand by him as he works to reduce violence and rebuild his country," McConnell said.
Prior to this morning's meeting with al-Maliki, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) said he agreed with al-Maliki's critics that "he has made some comments in the past which I don't think are balanced in terms of the crisis" between Israel and Hezbollah. But Frist added, "That is not the purpose of him being here."
"He is our ally in the war on terror, as it's being fought out in Iraq, and we need to continue to support him and support him aggressively, ask tough questions, and that's the dialogue we'll have over the course of this morning," Frist said in an interview on CNN's American Morning.
At his appearance with Hastert this morning, CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports that al-Maliki said he was "very honored to be at the Congress of America.
"I come here carrying the difficulties of the American people," al-Maliki said through a translator. "I look forward to the cooperation and support to combat terror in Iraq for the sake of humanity."
Expect some Democratic critics to boycott his 11 a.m. ET speech. Already, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said he would not attend, CNN's Dana Bash reports.