Apr 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Top House progressives fight back in campus messaging wars

Reps. Greg Casar, wearing a light blue shirt, and Ilhan Omar, wearing a leather jacket, white sweater and brown headscarf.

Reps. Greg Casar and Ilhan Omar. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Several leading House progressives took to college campuses on Thursday to show their support for pro-Palestinian demonstrators who have disrupted universities across the country.

Why it matters: At least ten pro-Israel lawmakers have gone to Columbia University this week to blast protesters and the college's administration over alleged antisemitic incidents.

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) was the latest to visit Columbia on Wednesday, calling for the college's president, Minouche Shafik, to resign and suggesting President Biden should consider sending in the National Guard.
  • More is yet to come: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), a member of the progressive Squad, "plans to speak with student organizers this week," her office told Axios.

Driving the news: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) visited Columbia on Thursday after her daughter was suspended from sister college Barnard last week for her involvement in a pro-Palestinian encampment that has drawn nationwide attention.

  • Omar, who previously visited the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, criticized Johnson for his Columbia visit in an MSNBC interview, accusing him of trying to "stir up, really, more anger and hate, and endanger the lives of young people."
  • Also on Thursday, Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) spoke to pro-Palestinian students and faculty protesting at the University of Texas, Austin.
  • Both are leading members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: Omar is the group's deputy chair and Casar the whip.

Zoom in: Gaza protests at colleges and accusations of campus antisemitism have become central issues in Congress since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Four Jewish House Democrats and two New York House Republicans held competing press conferences at Columbia on Monday to call out alleged antisemitic incidents.
  • Johnson was joined on Wednesday by four of his colleagues, including House Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).

Zoom out: Anti-war protests are erupting at numerous colleges including George Washington University, Emory University, New York University and several colleges in Boston – in some cases disrupting graduation plans.

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