Pence delays Middle East trip for "tax bill vote"

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-19 13:04:49|Editor: huaxia
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday postponed his trip to the Middle East until January, citing the need of his vote on the tax-cut legislation in Congress.

The delay allows him to remain in Washington, D.C. in case his vote is needed to break a tie in the Senate over the administration's tax reforms.

Pence was expected to depart for Egypt on Tuesday night and meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday before traveling to Israel.

A spokesperson for Pence's office said the vice president "is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line," and looks forward to traveling to Egypt and Israel in January.

"The tax vote is still in very good shape, but we don't want to take any chances whatsoever," a senior White House official said.

The announcement came after Senator John McCain returned home to Arizona over the weekend to fight brain cancer, leaving Republicans with a razor-thin margin to pass the legislation.

The Senate is expected to vote on the package on Tuesday or early Wednesday.

White House officials denied that Pence's decision was driven by the reaction in the Middle East to President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Trump, breaking away from decades of the U.S. policy of neutrality, announced on Dec. 6 that the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv would be moved to Jerusalem in a tacit recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The move has enraged Palestinians and other Muslims across the world.

At least six Palestinians have been killed in violent clashes with Israeli security forces in the past weeks in the ensuing protests. Enditem