A campaign is building in Washington for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to address a joint meeting of US Congress, a rare honour bestowed on world leaders including Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis.
In the aftermath of Mr Turnbull’s volatile phone call with US President Donald Trump, two senior Democrats believe an invite would reinforce America’s “long-standing, close relationship” with Australia.
Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee from New York and Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee from Washington, have penned a letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan urging Mr Turnbull be sent the invitation.
“An invitation to the prime minister, in consultation with the executive branch, to visit and address Congress would be very well received,” Representatives Engel and Smith wrote.
“It would send a clear message that Congress continues to support a strong US-Australia relationship based on mutual respect.”
The Congress is bitterly divided, but Mr Trump’s treatment of Mr Turnbull in the January 28 phone call that became heated over the Manus Island and Nauru refugee deal brought the usually warring Democrat and Republican members of Congress together.
Senior Democrats and Republicans, including former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, last week introduced a bipartisan resolution in the US Senate “reaffirming a strong commitment to the United States-Australian alliance relationship”.
Representatives Engel and Smith suggested Mr Turnbull’s address to Congress should commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal – three critical moments in World War II where US and Australian forces stopped Japan’s Pacific expansion.
If approved, Mr Turnbull would join Bob Hawke, John Howard and Julia Gillard as Australian prime ministers who have addressed a joint meeting of Congress.
“An address by one of our closest partners in the Asia-Pacific would also strengthen Congress’s understanding of the challenges our nations face together in containing China, defeating terrorism, and promoting the rule of law, free expression and free markets,” Representatives Engel and Smith wrote.
“Through two world wars, and in every major conflict since, Australian troops have fought and died alongside Americans in defence of democracy.”