May 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Mike Johnson blasts “MIA” Biden on college protests

APRIL 24: House Speaker Mike Johnson holds a press conference after a visit with Jewish students at Columbia University in Manhattan, NY, on April 24th, 2024. (Photo by Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

APRIL 24: House Speaker Mike Johnson holds a press conference after a visit with Jewish students at Columbia University in Manhattan, NY, on April 24th, 2024. (Photo by Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) took aim Thursday at President Biden's handling of the protests against the Israel-Hamas war, telling Axios "the administration has been MIA for too long."

Why it matters: Johnson pushed back on Biden's reluctance to utilize the National Guard as a means to intervene in the protests which have led to some Jewish students to say they fear for their safety.

  • Biden condemned some of the demonstrations on Thursday, telling reporters: "There's the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos," but said he would not call up the National Guard to intervene.
  • "He has to be able or at least open to the idea of deploying the National Guard where it's needed," Johnson told Axios.

What he's saying: The Louisiana Republican called on Biden to advocate for the removal of university presidents who haven't pushed back aggressively enough on the protests.

  • "The idea that he waited until today to make a statement is to me just rather outrageous," Johnson continued.
  • "In the end, he needs to be ensuring accountability on these university officials that they have tolerated all the lawlessness on these campuses," he said.

What to watch: Johnson said that the House plans to take further legislative action to ramp up pressure on universities to combat threats against Jewish students and the destruction of property.

  • "We're going to be working on the federal funding streams that go to these schools that are violating civil rights laws and violating the Constitution and I think the president needs to be leading on that," he said.
  • "He's not, but the House will — it would be much more effective if we had a whole government approach."

The big picture: A resolution aimed at condemning antisemitism passed with broad bipartisan support on Wednesday, but the GOP is expected to continue to put the issue on the forefront.

  • The war in Gaza has been a difficult issue for certain Democrats to navigate as many young progressive voters have come out adamantly against Israel's use of military force against Hamas in Gaza.
  • Top Republicans have stood by Israel, asserting the country has the right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.
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