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Mike Johnson heads to Columbia University

Johnson heads to Columbia University

Speaker Mike Johnson will go to Columbia University in New York today to speak with Jewish students in the wake of pro-Palestinian protests happening on campus.

Johnson will hold a news conference at 3:45 p.m. to discuss “the troubling rise of virulent antisemitism on America’s college campuses,” according to his office.

Johnson’s visit comes as college campuses across the nation grapple with student protests over the Israel-Hamas war. Congress approved more than $26 billion in new Israeli aid on Tuesday night while also backing humanitarian support for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians trapped by the Gaza fighting.

Since last Wednesday, Columbia University students have set up tent encampments to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Protesters have also called for the school to divest in Israel and a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

The sometimes chaotic scene at Columbia has attracted national attention, prompting bipartisan calls for the university’s president to step down. Dozens of protestors have been arrested amid a rise in antisemitic harassment and intimidation.

The scrutiny comes just after Columbia University President Nemat Shafik’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill where she condemned antisemitism and defended her record of cracking down on the issue.

Hill response: House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik led a letter to Shafik this week calling on her to resign. The letter was signed by every New York House Republican.

New York GOP Reps. Anthony D’Esposito and Mike Lawler visited Columbia’s campus Tuesday, as well as Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) and Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.). The four Democrats called on the school’s leadership to discipline students who have allegedly harassed Jewish students.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) went as far as to compare the campus protests to the infamous 2017 pro-white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) criticized Shafik for canceling in-person classes: “What Columbia University needs is not an appeaser of antisemitism but a leader who will fight with moral clarity against it.”

As we reported Monday, we expect more hearings on the topic of antisemitism on campuses by the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Lawmakers may also start to introduce bills to strip federal funding from schools they feel aren’t doing enough to fight antisemitism.

— Mica Soellner

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