Sen. Bernie Sanders: I Will Boycott Netanyahu Speech

PHOTO: Senator Bernie Sanders held a senate hearing to look into rising generic drug prices.ABC
Senator Bernie Sanders at a senate hearing to look into rising generic drug prices.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who is flirting with a 2016 presidential bid, today became the first U.S. senator to officially announce he will skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress next month.

Sanders, the longest-serving Independent in Congress, said it was wrong that the president wasn't consulted about the prime minister's visit. His statement came during a Q&A session after a speech at the Brookings Institution.

Three House Democrats have said they will boycott Netanyahu's speech, according to the Associated Press, and some Senate Democrats said they are considering it, including the number two Democrat in the Senate Dick Durbin, R-Illinois. Vice President Joe Biden also will not attend the speech because he will be traveling abroad.

Sanders also said he is considering running as a Democrat if he decides to run for president in 2016.

He said many Americans are tired of the two-party system and would support an independent candidate but worries that it would be hard to get enough attention outside the Democratic Party.

"To do it well we would have to put together the strongest grassroots movement in the modern history of this country where millions of people are saying 'you know what, enough is enough," he said during a Q&A session at the Brookings Institution, a DC think tank.

Sanders said he would engage in a debate on the issues with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumed nominee, if they both run and would keep things positive. When asked about Sen. Elizabeth Warren he said he’s not sure she will run.

But, he added, "It is not my style to trash people."

His remarks focused on income inequality and the shrinking middle class - both emerging as dominant themes for the 2016 presidential race.

Sanders, who released his 12-point-plan to rebuild the middle class last month, lamented that the country is "moving rapidly away from our democratic heritage into an oligarchic form of society – where we are experiencing a government of the billionaire class, by the billionaire class and for the billionaire class," he said in his remarks.

Sanders suggested a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and publicly fund elections to block wealthy families like the Koch brothers from having "a stronger political presence than either of our major parties."