Jeffries calls on Johnson to hold vote on antisemitism bill

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is urging Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to stage a vote on a bipartisan bill to combat antisemitism, the latest push by lawmakers in the wake of pro-Palestine protests roiling college campuses across the country.

In a letter to Johnson on Monday, Jeffries asked that the Speaker bring the Countering Antisemitism Act to the floor, which would establish a national coordinator to counter antisemitism at the White House, who would serve as the president’s main adviser on combating antisemitism in the U.S. and coordinate federal efforts on the matter.

“The effort to crush antisemitism and hatred in any form is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an American issue that must be addressed in a bipartisan manner with the fierce urgency of now,” Jeffries said. “In this spirit, I strongly urge you to schedule a vote on the bipartisan Countering Antisemitism Act forthwith.”

The legislation — which was introduced by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers and senators earlier this month — would also compel the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterrorism Center to create a joint threat assessment of antisemitic violent extremism every year, and it would declare May to be “Jewish American Heritage Month” in federal law.

The push from Jeffries comes amid a wave of pro-Palestine protests on college campuses nationwide, some of which lawmakers and advocates say are taking an antisemitic turn.

“They have co-opted First Amendment arguments to protect genocide and to elevate the voices of antisemitism,” Johnson said of Columbia University administrators during a visit to the campus last week.

The Manhattan campus has been the site of one of the most controversial pro-Palestine encampments.

Jeffries’ letter also follows a damning report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) earlier this month that said antisemitic incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time record in 2023, the same year the Israel-Hamas war began. The group recorded more than 8,800 antisemitic incidents in 2023, which includes assaults, harassment and vandalism, according to its annual survey.

The number marked a 140 percent jump in antisemitic incidents from what the ADL documented in 2022, which also set a record at the time.

The House this week is slated to vote on a separate antisemitism-related bill, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which would require the Department of Education to utilize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when implementing anti-discrimination laws. The group defines antisemitism in-part as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and it provides examples including calling for the harming of Jews and accusing them of exaggerating the Holocaust.

Jeffries on Monday, however, said the bills on the legislative docket this week would not accomplish the same priorities as the Countering Antisemitism Act, which he is pushing to bring to the floor.

“There is nothing scheduled on the floor this week that would accomplish the concrete, thoughtful strategies outlined by the Biden administration, set forth in the legislation and echoed by leading Jewish organizations across the country,” he wrote.

Reps. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Randy Weber (R-Texas), along with Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the bill Jeffries is pushing for a vote on.

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