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Why Ruto will not address joint sitting of Congress during US visit

House Speaker Mike Johnson rejected the request, explaining the reason why it will not be possible for Ruto to address the a joint session of Congress

File image of US President Joe Biden (L) and Kenya’s President William Ruto posing for a picture.

President William Ruto will not address a joint session of Congress during his State visit to the United States.

The request to have the visiting President address the joint session was placed by a section of Democrat lawmakers for consideration ahead of Ruto’s upcoming visit.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Gregory Meeks and Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wrote to the United States Speaker of the House of Representatives, formally making the request.

“We are writing to respectfully request that you extend a formal invitation to the President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency William Samoei Ruto, to address a joint session of Congress on his official visit to the United States." Read part of the letter to The Speaker.

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It was however turned down by House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Speaker Johnson's deputy chief of staff Raj Shah noted that the request was rejected due to scheduling restraints.

"Unfortunately, due to scheduling restraints, we could not accommodate a request for remarks before a Joint Session,” reads part of a statement by Speaker Johnson's deputy chief of staff Raj Shah.

The Speaker extended a warm welcome to President Ruto, noting that the President’s delegation has been offered over 90 minutes of engagement.

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The statement noted that one-on-one visit with Speaker Johnson as well as meetings with Committee Chairpersons and a bicameral meeting have been slotted during the visit.

“Speaker Johnson welcomes President Ruto to the Capitol. We have offered the Kenyan embassy over 90 minutes of engagement including a one-on-one visit with Speaker Johnson, bipartisan leadership meeting with Speaker Johnson, Leader Jeffries, and Committee Chairmen and Ranking members, and a bicameral meeting. “ Added the statement.

Congressional Research Service details that “a joint meeting of Congress is generally held when a prominent individual, often a foreign leader, is invited to address the House and Senate simultaneously”.

When a foreign leader formally visits the United States, he or she is sometimes invited to address Congress. The decision to invite a foreign leader to address Congress has historically been made by the congressional leadership, often in consultation and conjunction with the executive branch.

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When a foreign leader is invited to address Congress, the invitation is formally extended by the Speaker of the House on behalf of the House and Senate leadership.

Had the request been granted, President William Ruto would have become the first Kenyan President to address a joint session of Congress.

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the last visiting African Head of State to address a joint session of Congress in 2006.

Not all foreign leaders who visit the United States are invited to address Congress.

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