December 14, 2017 / 3:08 PM / a year ago

Pence delays Middle East trip in case needed for U.S. tax vote

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence participate in a signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S. December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will delay an upcoming Middle East trip by a few days in case a tie-breaking vote is needed from him for tax cut legislation in Congress, a senior White House official said on Thursday.

Pence will now leave some time on Tuesday on a trip that will begin with a visit to Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the official said.

He had initially planned to leave late on Saturday.

As vice president, Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate, and with a close vote expected along party lines on the tax legislation, it was decided to keep him in the country just in case. Republican Senator John McCain, who is fighting brain cancer, was in hospital on Wednesday.

“We don’t expect his vote to be needed but we don’t want the scenario where he’s on the other side of the world and we have to come back,” the official said.

Pence is set to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in Jerusalem.

Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said that during the trip, Pence would reaffirm the U.S. commitment to U.S. allies in the Middle East and to working together with them in the fight against Islamist militants.

“He looks forward to having constructive conversations with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Sisi to reaffirm President Trump’s commitment to our partners in the region and to its future,” she said in a statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Pence in protest of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Alistair Bell

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