On the hill

Manning compares Capitol riot experience to running from Gazan rockets in Israel

The congresswoman’s comments came during a JFNA event with new members of Congress Monday night

Gerry Broome/AP

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC)

Freshman Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a former chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, says her time with the organization has served her well on Capitol Hill, but in an unexpected way: The experience of fleeing from a Gazan rocket attack in Israel while on a JFNA trip prepared her to flee from the House gallery during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the congresswoman said Monday.

“Many of my colleagues were panicked, with good reason,” Manning said during a virtual JFNA meeting featuring nine freshman members of Congress. “But as my heart started to race, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve been through much worse. I’ve had to run to bomb shelters in Sderot with sirens blaring and rockets overhead coming in from Gaza.’”

Manning was inside the House gallery, a balcony with spectator seating that overlooks the House floor, with several dozen other members of Congress when rioters breached the building last month and attempted to access both the gallery and the House floor. They initially took cover under seats, with gas masks on, and then had to climb through the seating area and under guardrails to reach an exit.

A Manning spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the Sderot incident.

“Who knew that being chair of JFNA would prepare me so well to be a member of Congress,” Manning added with a slight chuckle. “I’m sure I’ll be able to use things I learned there in the future, hopefully in less fraught circumstances.”

Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA), who recently joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee, discussed the need for bipartisan support for Israel. 

“We have to be very intentional about not making [Israel] a political issue, not making it a partisan issue, not making it a political football, not using it as a wedge to separate different candidates of different parties,” Jacobs said. 

She also wants to see the U.S.’s position as a credible negotiator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict restored.

“It will be important for us to show that we can look ahead and really think about what the United States can do to help push for peace, push for a two-state solution, that we can become the trusted mediator again,” Jacobs said. “A lot of that has been eroded by the last four years, but I’m confident that the Biden administration is going to be doing everything they can to really be able to move us forward and push us closer to a two-state solution that I think we have a very short window to be able to do.”

Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), who is also Jewish and whose district in the Boston suburbs has a significant Jewish population, laid out the measures he believes are necessary to protect Jewish institutions.

The Massachusetts congressman called for stricter firearms regulations, explaining that he does not believe civilians should have access to assault weapons or high-capacity magazines and said that background checks should be mandatory for gun sales.

“As we have seen on January 6 and has been bubbling up for years now, we have a right-wing domestic terrorism problem in this country. And it’s got to be ripped out by the very roots,” Auchincloss said.

He said that solidarity with other groups targeted by extremists, including Black and Latino Americans, is crucial to pushing back against their influence. “If we’re not standing up for African Americans and Latinos, we’re not standing up for Jews either.”