Nov 30, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Tensions surround first House Jewish Caucus meeting

Rep. Jerry Nadler. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The newly formed House Jewish Caucus' first organizational meeting on Friday morning is poised to be marked by discord, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Frustration among some Jewish lawmakers threatens to deny the group the virtually full Democratic membership that other congressional affinity groups enjoy.

Driving the news: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-Fla.) office invited all Jewish House members to a Friday meeting at the House offices "to discuss the organization of the House Jewish Caucus," according to an email obtained by Axios.

  • Several Jewish members are leaning against joining the caucus but may still attend the meeting.
  • Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), one of the two Jewish Republicans in the House, told Axios he plans to attend the Friday meeting and all other Jewish Caucus gatherings.

What they're saying: House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who previously told Axios he doesn't plan to join the caucus, said in a statement he will attend the meeting "as a courtesy to my colleagues and on behalf of the members who were not consulted."

  • Nadler, as the longest serving Jewish member, is seen as the de facto leader of the informal Jewish members' working group.
  • "For decades, Jewish members of the House of Representatives have met, debated, set policy, and hosted honored guests," Nadler said of the unofficial group. "In the rush to form this new group, by contrast, most Jewish members were left out of the discussion altogether."
  • Nadler said the creation of the caucus "divides our members at the worst possible time" and detracts from members' focus on the Israel-Hamas war.

What we're hearing: "I'm going to go, and I'm sympathetic to what Nadler's saying," said one Jewish member, who doubts they will join the caucus.

  • Several lawmakers told Axios their hesitation to join is focused on the perception that the Jewish Caucus would be a religious caucus – unlike groups such as the Black and Hispanic Caucuses.
  • "The big question people are talking about is what has changed that would cause us to take the pretty radical step of creating the first religious caucus in Congress," said one.

The other side: "I think this has to do with me being a new member – I don't understand the heartburn about coming together as Jewish members to be able to work on issues together," said Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio).

  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) predicted that "when everyone gets in the room, they'll see that ... we are a persecuted minority group and I think there are opportunities for us to bring perspective."

The big picture: "I've been here for 27 years, we've always thought of creating a caucus," said Rep. Bran Sherman (D-Calif.), adding that, over the years, he's heard "lots of members ... put forward reasons why there shouldn't be a caucus and why it should jut be an informal group."

  • Sherman said he is "leaning towards the idea we ought to have a caucus" and "my guess is we create one."
  • "I at least get some bagels out of it," Sherman added. "Debbie has assured me of that."

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Jerry Nadler is a House Judiciary Committee ranking member, not its chair.

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