Nov 21, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Jewish lawmaker leaves Progressive Caucus over Israel rift

Rep. Lois Frankel. Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Caring Across Generations.

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) left the Congressional Progressive Caucus due to stark disagreements with other members of the group on the Israel-Hamas war, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Frankel's departure underscores a growing divide among Democratic lawmakers over the conflict in Gaza as many progressives break with their party's initial firm support of Israel.

What we're hearing: Frankel's office confirmed to Axios that she has left the Progressive Caucus, a group of nearly 100 of the more left-leaning Democrats in Congress.

  • Frankel left due to how some members of the group were responding to the situation in Israel, a source told Axios.
  • Progressives have generally been more sympathetic to the Palestinians than their more moderate colleagues, with some members of the left-wing "Squad" drawing criticism for their initial statements on the Oct. 7 attack.
  • Frankel's departure was first reported by The Intercept.

A spokesperson for the Progressive Caucus did not respond to requests for comment.

The backdrop: Frankel, who is Jewish and has long been a staunch supporter of Israel, has taken a raft of pro-Israel votes in recent weeks that put her at odds with Progressive Caucus members.

  • She was among the 22 Democrats who voted with Republicans to censure progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her strident criticism of Israel.
  • Frankel was also one of a dozen Democrats, and just three Progressive Caucus members, who voted for a $14.3 billion military aid package to Israel that even many moderate, pro-Israel Democrats opposed due to its corresponding cuts to IRS funding.
  • Outside of Israel, Frankel has a very progressive voting record: She has a 96% rating from left-leaning group ProgressivePunch.

Zoom in: On the progressive side, calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war – the key demand of left-wing groups that have put enormous pressure on Democratic lawmakers – are gradually ticking up.

  • On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) became the second Senate Democrat to advocate for a ceasefire, joining dozens of House Democrats in doing so.
  • A deal between Israel and Hamas to declare a multi-day ceasefire and free dozens of hostages could be announced as soon as Tuesday, Axios' Barak Ravid reported.
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