Nine House Democrats voted against a GOP-authored resolution that rejected all forms of anti-Semitism and says Israel is “not a racist apartheid state” following comments from Rep. Pramila Jayapal that criticized the Middle Eastern democracy.
The measure from Rep. August Pfluger, Texas Republican, breezed through the chamber, 412-9. Rep. Betty McCollum, Minnesota Democrat, voted ‘present.’ The measure passed under a suspension of the rules, a fast-track maneuver that requires approval from two-thirds of lawmakers for passage.
House Republicans forced Democrats to go on record about the U.S.-Israeli relationship as they prepared to welcome Israeli President Isaac Herzog for an address Wednesday.
Yet nine Democrats voted against the measure as progressives protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and settlement-expansion efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The nine Democratic lawmakers that voted against the measure were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Cori Bush of Missouri, Andre Carson of Indiana, Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Delia Ramirez of Illinois.
Ms. Jayapal, Washington Democrat, voted in favor of the resolution.
GOP leaders will use those votes as a broad political cudgel against Democrats as they try to make inroads with Jewish voters and twist the knife over Ms. Jayapal’s decision to dub Israel a “racist state” during a conference in Chicago.
The Democrats that voted against the measure contended that they could not support the resolution because it said Israel was not an apartheid state.
Mrs. Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, said before the vote that the resolution was Congress’ attempt to deny reality and support apartheid.
“This body, this Congress supported a South African apartheid regime, and that was bipartisan as well,” the Michigan Democrat said.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez accused GOP lawmakers of being cynical by weaponizing an increase in hate crimes and anti-Semitic rhetoric while also inviting Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to testify before the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee.
Democrats have urged GOP leadership to cancel Mr. Kennedy’s testimony on the weaponization of government, citing remarks the presidential candidate made about COVID-19 that they said promoted harmful tropes about Jews.
“You can’t tell me that they can invite RFK Jr. and then somehow, in the same week, act as though they are some kind of protector of our communities,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told reporters.
House leadership touted the resolution, which does not directly name Ms. Jayapal, early Tuesday.
“This legislation really deals with the overall desire for us to stand up against anti-Semitism,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican. “You’ve seen many people on the left express those kinds of views. We’re having a very direct piece of legislation that stands up against antisemitism, so [Ms. Jayapal] is not the only one, but Democrats should have to answer for her statements.”
Ms. Jayapal walked back the comments, but many of her party colleagues heaped criticism on her, saying Israel is a vital partner in the Middle East.
The White House welcomed her apology, while some Democrats tempered their condemnation of her with criticism of Mr. Netanyahu and by calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
President Biden welcomed Mr. Herzog to the White House on Tuesday and hailed the special bond between the countries.
At least five Democratic lawmakers have signaled that they will not attend Mr. Herzog’s address on Wednesday.
Pew Research surveys that took stock of the 2020 presidential cycle found that 50% of Jews described their political views as liberal — more than three times the percentage who said they were politically conservative (16%).
“While Jews overall are a strongly Democratic and liberal cohort, there is one segment of the Jewish population that is notably more inclined toward conservatism and the GOP,” the 2021 Pew study said. “Three-quarters of Orthodox Jews identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, more than three times the share who identify with or lean toward the Democrats (20%).”
Sam Markstein, the national political director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, thanked Republican sponsors for authoring Tuesday’s resolution and predicted political backlash for Democrats.
“Radicals inside the Democratic Party are ruining the bipartisan support that has always existed for Israel — and this is a major reason why Democrats continue to hemorrhage support from Jewish voters,” he said.
“The anti-Israel caucus of the Democratic Party used to claim their actions and rhetoric were in opposition to Netanyahu — but this shows they really oppose Israel. Not long ago, it was an automatic applause line to say ‘I stand with Israel.’ While that is still the case for Republicans, it is increasingly not so for Democrats,” he said.