Pelosi to Attend White House State Dinner; Boehner Declines Invitation

By John R Parkinson

Jan 19, 2011 12:53pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will attend the state dinner tonight at the White House to honor Chinese President Hu Jintao, but Speaker of the House John Boehner has once again declined the invitation to the glitzy dinner.

While both were invited, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, say they will not attend the dinner either.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate this week have spoke out against the Chinese president’s visit to criticize the economic superpower for its human rights record, currency manipulation, and restrictions on speech.

In an on-camera interview, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took it a step further and dubbed Chinese president Hu Jintao “a dictator.” 

“I am going to go back to Washington tomorrow and meet with the President of China. He is a dictator,” Reid told Las Vegas journalist Jon Ralston. “He can do a lot of things through the form of government they have. Maybe I shouldn’t have said dictator, but they have a different type of government than we have and that is an understatement.” 

Boehner was asked today if he declined the invitation to the state dinner for similar reasons, but the Speaker was careful not to take the bait and instead delivered a diplomatic answer.

“Without accepting most of that question, the president of China is coming to the Hill on Thursday,” Boehner said. “We’re going to meet with him in a bipartisan fashion and I look forward to seeing him then.”

According to his spokesman, Michael Steel, Boehner has attended just one state dinner throughout his 20 years of service in the House. Boehner accepted President George W. Bush’s invitation to attend the state dinner for Queen Elizabeth in 2007.

Boehner will welcome the Chinese president to the Capitol for a closed-press meeting with bipartisan lawmakers Thursday morning.

The following members are expected to attend the meeting:

Rep. John Boehner (Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Rep. Eric Cantor (Republican Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives )

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Republican Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives )

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives)

Rep. Kevin Brady (Chairman, Subcommittee on Trade, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives)      

Rep. Charles Boustany (Republican Co-Chairman, U.S.-China Working Group, U.S. House of Representatives)

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Democratic Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives )

Rep. Jim Clyburn (Democratic Assistant Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Rep. Sander Levin (Ranking Member, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives)

Rep. Howard Berman (Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives)

Pelosi, D-California, a critic of China's human-rights policy, will attend the state dinner with her husband, Paul Pelosi. Pelosi has also attended both of President Obama’s previous state dinners – for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, has also accepted the President’s invitation and plans to bring his brother John Clyburn.

ABC News’ Matt Jaffe contributed to this report.

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