Apr 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Antisemitism vote set to reignite House Democrats' divisions

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, wearing a black overcoat, light blue shirt and purple tie, being filmed outside by reporters.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images.

House Democrats are poised to be split on a resolution aimed at cracking down on allegations of antisemitism on college campuses.

Why it matters: A wave of pro-Palestinian protests at colleges across the country has widened Democrats' already deep divide on the Israel-Hamas war and antisemitism.

Driving the news: The House is set to vote this week on the bipartisan Antisemitism Awareness Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.).

  • It would require the Department of Education to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism in enforcing federal statutes prohibiting discrimination against students.
  • The IHRA definition, controversially for many on the left, includes "denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination" and "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis," as examples of antisemitism.

Zoom in: The measure is likely to pass in a broad bipartisan vote given that, in addition to 33 Republicans, the bill has 14 Democratic co-sponsors.

  • The Democrats on the measure include Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
  • But Democratic leadership said in a note to Democratic offices last week that House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a progressive Jewish lawmaker, "opposes this bill as written."

The backdrop: Democratic lawmakers have found their divisions over the war in Gaza and antisemitism amplified by the flare-up of campus protests this week.

  • Several moderate Jewish Democrats visited Columbia University last week to show support for Jewish students amidst allegations of antisemitism.
  • But later that week, House progressives across the country visited campuses to show solidarity with the demonstrators.

Between the lines: The split comes after House Democrats managed to stay extraordinarily unified behind House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on strategy and tactics during last month's foreign aid fight.

  • Many Democratic lawmakers attributed their outsized power during that battle to their party's unity – relative to Republicans' chronic infighting.

Zoom out: This is only the latest instance since the Oct. 7 attack that the GOP-led House has put an Israel or antisemitism-related measure on the floor that is likely to divide Democrats.

  • A measure in December that "clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism" bitterly divided some Democrats.
  • The party also split almost evenly on another measure later that month calling for the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania to step down over their answers at an antisemitism hearing.
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