House Votes Against Immigrants, the Environment, and Free Speech in Series of Toxic Votes

Jonathan Cohn
6 min readMay 5, 2024

This past week, the House of Representatives passed a number of harmful Republican bills and resolutions. Let’s walk through them.

Xenophobic Signaling

The House voted for a Republican resolution denouncing the Biden administration’s immigration policies, falsely claiming that Biden has an “open borders” policy (the Democrats in Republicans’ minds are always more progressive than those in reality…), calling for mass deportation, and engaging in truly vile xenophobic fear-mongering.

It passed 223 to 191. One should expect such garbage from House Republicans, but 13 Democrats unfortunately joined them: Nikki Budzinski (IL-13), Yadira Caraveo (CO-08), Angie Craig (MN-02), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Sharice Davids (KS-03), Don Davis (NC-01), Jared Golden (ME-02), Josh Harder (CA-09), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Susie Lee (NV-03), Mary Peltola (AK-AL), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), and Eric Sorensen (IL-17).

Drilling in ANWR

The House voted 214 to 199 to reinstate seven oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that the Biden administration stayed when he took office in 2021 and canceled last September after a Department of Interior analysis. The bill (HR.6285) would also prohibit a future moratorium, mandate additional lease sales on older terms, and force the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw conservation regulations related to the area.

Five Democrats voted yes: Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Jared Golden (ME-02), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-34), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) — notably not Alaska’s Mary Peltola. Republican Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) joined Democrats in opposition.

Mining in the Superior National Forest

The House voted 212 to 203 to undermine scientific analysis and public input in order to reinstate canceled leases and permits for a mining company (Twin Metals) in the watershed of the Boundary Waters in the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. Jared Golden (ME-02) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) joined Republicans in voting for it.

Blocking Pro-Conservation Regulations

The House voted 212 to 202 to force the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw a proposed rule that would establish that conservation is on par with other land uses, prioritize the creation of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) in land use plans, and develop a conservation leasing program that would allow community groups to conduct conservation programs.

Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Jared Golden (ME-02), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03) joined Republicans in voting for it, and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) joined Democrats in voting against it.

Delisting the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species Act

The House voted 209 to 205 to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act.

Four Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it: Yadira Caraveo (CO-08), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Jared Golden (ME-02), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03).

Four Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it: Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Matt Gaetz (FL-01), Mike Garcia (CA-27), and Nancy Mace (SC-01).

Banning the Regulation of Lead Bullets

The House voted 214 to 201 to ban the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and US Forest Service from prohibiting or regulating the use of lead ammunition or tackle on federal land or water made available for hunting or fishing under such departments’ jurisdiction.

Seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it: Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Don Davis (NC-01), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Jared Golden (ME-02), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-34), Mary Peltola (AK-AL), and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03).

Three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it: Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and Matt Gaetz (FL-01).

Attacking Free Speech

The House voted 320 to 91 to pass the so-called Antisemitism Awareness Act, a bill that will not, in fact, do anything to combat antisemitism.

The bill codifies the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of “antisemitism,” an overbroad definition that would designate much legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitism; it also would instruct the Department of Education to use this definition when investigating allegations of discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

We do not need new legislation to make antisemitic harassment illegal: it already is. This bill, rather, is aimed at criminalizing the wave of protests on college campuses.

The ACLU described the bill as a “a direct attack on the First Amendment,” explaining, “Addressing rising antisemitism is critically important, but sacrificing American’s free speech rights is not the way to solve that problem. This bill would throw the full weight of the federal government behind an effort to stifle criticism of Israel and risks politicizing the enforcement of federal civil rights statutes precisely when their robust protections are most needed.”

Congressman Jerry Nadler (NY-12) spoke against the bill on the House floor:

But while this definition and its examples may have useful applications in certain contexts, by effectively codifying them into Title VI, this bill threatens to chill constitutionally protected speech. Speech that is critical of Israel — alone — does not constitute unlawful discrimination. By encompassing purely political speech about Israel into Title VI’s ambit, the bill sweeps too broadly.

As the ACLU notes, if this legislation were to become law, colleges and universities that want to avoid Title VI investigations, or the potential loss of federal funding, could end up suppressing protected speech criticizing Israel or supporting Palestinians. Moreover, it could result in students and faculty self-censoring their political speech. Even the IHRA definition’s lead author, Kenneth Stern, opposes codifying this definition for this reason.

Vigorous enforcement of federal civil rights law does not depend on defining terms like “antisemitism” or “racism”. In fact, codifying one definition of antisemitism, to the exclusion of all other possible definitions, could actually undermine federal civil rights law because antisemitism, like other forms of bigotry, evolves over time, and future conduct that comes to be widely understood as antisemitic may no longer meet the statutory definition.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot ignore the context in which this legislation is being rushed to the floor in a cynical attempt to exploit for political gain the deep divisions currently on display at college campuses across the country.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) issued a statement outlining her opposition as well:

“Unfortunately, H.R. 6090, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, does absolutely nothing to counter antisemitism and is another Republican attempt to pit the Jewish community and Democrats against each other. This problematic bill would codify the overly broad International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism and chill free speech — including legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. Enshrining this working definition into law would do more harm than good, and IHRA’s own documentation states that it is intended to be non-legally binding guidance for education and training purposes only. I have long held that we should not codify any definition of “antisemitism” and should instead consult multiple definitions and examples when we carry out this important work — just as we have not codified a formal definition of racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination. The Jewish community itself has yet to reach a consensus on the definition of antisemitism or what constitutes antisemitic speech, and it is inappropriate for Congress to step in.

Americans for Peace Now president Hadar Susskind likewise underscore the bill’s disingenuousness:

“Antisemitism is the hatred of Jews. Unfortunately, one doesn’t need to look far to find it these days. But the supporters of this bill are looking in the wrong places. They aren’t interested in protecting Jews. They are interested in supporting right-wing views and narratives on Israel and shutting down legitimate questions and criticisms by crying “antisemite” at everyone, including Jews, who oppose the Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir, Smotrich government. With this disingenuous effort, House Republicans have failed to seriously address antisemitism. I hope the Senate does better.”

Despite these clear grounds for opposing the bill, only 70 Democrats voted against it:



Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.