There was talk among congressional reporters about wandering into The Monocle for a drink last Wednesday night. The Monocle is an old-school Capitol Hill watering hole located next to the U.S. Capitol Police Headquarters and across the parking lot from Dirksen’s Senate Office Building. Senators sometimes hang out there while waiting for the body to get its business together for a late-night vote.
It was 9pm last Wednesday and the Senate was overwhelmed with voting that began at 2:26pm. Senators struggled to reach an agreement to terminate his employment before Thanksgiving. The only reason reporters were still in the Capitol at that hour was because the Senate was scheduled to vote later to align with the House and avoid a government shutdown. There would have been drama surrounding a potential government funding cliff just a few days ago. But not now. The question was not if the Senate might approve the temporary spending package, but when. Since there was no agreement on the pending defense policy bill, the Senate postponed the close of the roll call vote until everything was settled.
That’s when word came from Capitol Police that all office buildings on the House side of the congressional complex were on lockdown. No one can come or go.
A huge pro-Palestinian demonstration descended on the Democratic National Committee headquarters, steps from the House office buildings. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Minority Leader Kathleen Clarke, D-Mass., Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and other Democratic members were on hand at the Democratic National Committee for an event. Democrats rallied throughout the day at the Democratic National Committee with campaign operatives and Democratic candidates ahead of the 2024 election cycle.
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Protesters surrounded the building, demanding a ceasefire in the Middle East, and prevented anyone from entering or leaving the Democratic National Committee.
Capitol Police moved in.
Jeffries and Clark have USCP security details due to their leadership positions. Protesters fired tear gas at Capitol Police. The USCP then began preparing the way for the evacuation of members from the crowd. USCP arrested a man for assaulting officers.
The demonstrators injured six officers.
“Last night’s group was not peaceful,” the USCP said in a statement the next day. “When demonstrations cross borders and turn into illegal activity, it is our responsibility to maintain order.”
Democrats holed up in the Democratic National Committee and unleashed on the protesters.
Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, who is Jewish, described them as “pro-Hamas” and “pro-terrorism.” He added that protesters “want Republicans to win” in 2024.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., is also Jewish and was cornered on the Democratic National Committee as well.
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“When you engage in intimidation tactics and certainly block access to or exit from the building, I think that’s crossing the line,” Wasserman Schultz said. “It was a very worrying and disturbing situation.”
“We were rescued by armed officers who did not know the protesters’ intent,” Rep. Sean Casten, Democrat of Illinois, said on Twitter.
Rep. Ana Paulina Luna, R-Fla., tweeted that she was stuck in her office in the Longworth House Office Building with her newborn baby during the noisy demonstration.
Democrats have a problem.
There is a rift in their party over the Middle East. Left-wing progressive activists, fueled by campus anger, are dividing the party over calls for a ceasefire and Israel’s emphasis on self-defense. That’s not to mention controversial comments by panel members like Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, to ceasefire and criticize pro-Israel groups. Such as AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee).
“I don’t think the Democratic Socialists of America, the Justice Democrats, etc., are part of the Democratic coalition,” said Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill.
Schneider has long been aligned with AIPAC. He voted to sanction Tlaib on the House floor because she pushed the “from the river to the sea” trope that calls for the elimination of Israel.
“What we need is for people of good conscience and moral clarity to stand united and say that Israel has been attacked by a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy the country,” Schneider said.
AIPAC is now prepared to run candidates against Democrats who oppose its goals.
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Progressive groups warned Jeffries last week that he and Democratic Congressional Committee Chair Rep. Susan DelBene, D-Wash., needed to keep AIPAC out of the Democratic primary.
Republicans have a lot of divisions on their side — between “Reagan” Republicans, the MAGA crowd, the Freedom Caucus and those who just want to put a stove on everything. This is radioactive. But the political radioactive isotopes over the Middle East are settled like any other issue.
That’s why some on the left now refer to President Biden as “Genocidal Joe.”
The New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America faced criticism after it included watermelon on a flyer calling for a Jeffries protest. Jefferies is black. Racists have long used watermelon to emphasize anti-black views. Watermelon is also a symbol for Palestinians who view Israel as an occupier.
A reporter asked Jeffries last week about the accusation that Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., shared the stage with the Rev. John Hagee at a pro-Israel rally on the National Mall. Lee described Hagee as an “anti-Semitic fanatic,” adding, “This must be condemned.”
Jeffries responded that he appeared on stage at the rally alongside House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.
Jeffries responded to Lee’s accusation: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Republicans may not face the same ferocious attack as Democrats over the Middle East conflict. The Republican Party is more united when it comes to standing behind Israel and approving legislation to aid the Jewish state financially and militarily. But there are Republicans who are tired of US involvement in “foreign wars” and the spending that goes with it. Look no further than the GOP divide over Ukraine. A potential Republican split over Israel has not yet materialized. But this is something to watch.
Democrats like Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.Y., are now victims of anti-Israel graffiti and vandalism in their district and state offices.
The disagreement over the Middle East appears to be more evident on the Democratic side, as evidenced by the protest witnessed at the Democratic National Convention last week. Republicans certainly have their own level of disarray following the House Speaker’s debacle and are struggling to pass their own spending bills.
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But nothing is as volatile as the Middle East. It poses a special level of political problems for the Democratic Party.
That’s why the shutdown of House office buildings and the tense protest outside the Democratic National Committee last week were so important. It’s liberals attacking liberals. There is a division among the Democratic members, as we mentioned previously, with the band and others. Democrats will have a hard time highlighting internal Republican dissent over government funding and even threats of violence among lawmakers when members of their party clash over something as combustible as the Middle East.