Senate GOP demands Democrats hold hearings on campus antisemitism

In the House, Republicans are moving ahead on a series of investigations into the matter

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) talks to members of the media as he makes his way to the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol on April 23, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans penned a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Thursday to request that he hold a hearing on how the uptick in antisemitism on college campuses is violating the civil rights of Jewish students. 

The letter was led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the top Republican on the committee, and signed by every Republican who serves on the panel, including Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). They urged Durbin, who chairs the committee, to convene a hearing “on the civil rights violations of Jewish students” and “the proliferation of terrorist ideology — two issues that fall squarely within this Committee’s purview.”

“With this current state of inaction, it is incumbent upon this Committee to shed light on these civil rights violations,” the group wrote. “This Committee owes it to Jewish students, and all students who attend universities with modest hope of having a safe learning environment, to examine these civil rights violations.”

“Our committee should examine why more is not being done to protect the civil rights of innocent students across America,” they added. “We must also examine the threat to national security posed by the proliferation of radical Islamist ideology in the academy. These pressing issues demand our immediate attention.”

A spokesperson for Durbin did not immediately respond to JI’s request for comment on the letter, which came the same day as a missive from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) requesting a similar hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. 

Cassidy, the top Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, sent a letter to Sanders on Thursday urging him to convene a hearing in his capacity as committee chairman on the uptick in antisemitism on college campuses. 

Cassidy’s letter, first obtained by Jewish Insider, marks the second time in six months that the Louisiana senator has written to Sanders requesting that he allow for a full committee hearing “on ensuring safe learning environments for Jewish students, as required by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Cassidy released a statement last week re-upping his call for a hearing, though he told JI that effort got no response.

“It is our duty to ensure federal officials are doing everything in their power to uphold the law and ensure students are not excluded from participation, denied the benefits of, or subject to discrimination at school based on race, color, or national origin,” Cassidy wrote to Sanders. “In the six months since my last letter requesting a hearing, the situation has only gotten worse.”

While Republicans have generally been more vocal about their concerns on the issue of antisemitism on college campuses, there have been bipartisan calls for action in the upper chamber. 

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) have also asked Sanders to hold a hearing on antisemitism on college campuses in his capacity as HELP chairman. Similar to Cassidy, they have also not heard back from the Vermont senator. 

Separately, Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) requested a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s response to protests at The George Washington University’s campus this week. 

The duo penned a letter on Thursday to Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who chairs the committee, requesting he bring in Bowser and D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Pamela Smith to testify on their respective responses to university requests to bring DCMP onto campus to clear out an anti-Israel encampment, requests Bowser denied. 

On the House side, where Republicans are in the majority, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) launched a chamber-wide effort to address all elements of the campus unrest. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who chairs the Education and Workforce Committee, revealed that in addition to her ongoing probes, she will have the presidents of three other schools testify next month on their responses to protests and instances of antisemitism on their campuses. The presidents of the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Michigan; and Yale University will be brought in to testify before Foxx’s committee on May 23. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, noted that her panel “oversees agencies that dole out massive amounts of taxpayer funded research grants… We will be increasing our oversight of institutions that have received public funding and cracking down on those who are in violation of the Civil Rights Act.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) said that his panel was reaching out to the State Department and Homeland Security Department to find out “how many students on a visa have engaged in the radical activity we’ve seen now day after day on college campuses.”

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