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Wednesday, Jul 18, 2018
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Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON ó Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday.

White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he can preside over the Senate during a likely vote next week on the tax package. Pence is president of the Senate.

His trip will be shorter after Palestinian officials and leading Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt said they would refuse to meet with him during the trip.

Pence had been scheduled to leave Saturday for Israel, following President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital. Farah said Pence will travel first to Egypt and then to Israel.

"We are so close to passing pro-growth, pro-jobs tax reform for hard working families" that "yesterday the White House informed Senate leadership that due to the historic nature of the vote in the Senate on tax cuts for millions of Americans, the VP would stay to preside over the vote," Penceís spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, said in a written statement.

Pence was forced to adjust his schedule in the Middle East amid protests from leaders over Trumpís recognition of Jerusalem as Israelís capital. Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has condemned Trumpís decision, said earlier this week that he would not meet with the vice president. Abbas had originally planned to host Pence, a devout Christian, in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Pence is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Cairo with Egyptís President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a close ally of Trumpís. Pence will arrive in Israel later Wednesday for a visit to the Western Wall. The vice president will then meet Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, deliver an address to the Knesset and later dine with Netanyahu.

White House officials said Pence will end his visit to Israel on Friday by meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

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