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Progressives facing key challenges over Israel ask Jeffries for more help

“If we have to spend a lot of money to keep our incumbents in power, that means less money that will be spent in front-line districts and in districts that we can salvage, so that’s a real problem,” he said. declared the representative. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the PAC. “And that’s why it’s really important to make it clear to AIPAC that they need to stand down and that we’re going to vigorously defend our members.”

The war between Israel and Hamas is forcing Jeffries to navigate a dangerous divide between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian members, as he prepares for a battle to retake the chamber next year.

Jeffries pledged that his party’s campaign arm will work to re-elect incumbent candidates who have harshly criticized Israel for its response to the Hamas attack last month. His wish comes from several of them, including the representatives. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), have attracted primary opponents backed by deep-pocketed groups aligned with Israel. Jeffries heard concerns from progressives about AIPAC, a group he still maintains close ties with, according to a person familiar with the conversation, and spoke about the dynamics of several races.

Divisions in the Democratic Party over the Israel-Hamas conflict reverberate within the party. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), who is one of the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus PAC, was apparently delayed from the meeting due to ceasefire protesters at his home – an example of how the The policy of pro-Israeli progressives has been complicated by the surge in violence in Israel.

This moment is also an opportunity for Jeffries and other new Democratic leaders to shore up support on their left flank. Although they haven’t always been on the same page on the Israeli conflict, with Jeffries taking a more pro-Israel stance, progressives are willing to put aside their differences — if they get the help necessary.

Rep. from Pennsylvania. Summer Lee, a first-term progressive lawmaker facing a major challenge, acknowledged that Jeffries contributed financially to the defense of incumbent candidates. But she urged him to do more.

“I hope he speaks out as urgently and aggressively as those speaking out against us,” Lee said.

It was a call picked up by the rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.), who said in a brief interview that with “the highly racialized targeting of many of these members, we absolutely need leadership that would defend our members against that.”

It was the second time in recent months that senior progressives had asked leaders for help. Progressives first asked Democratic leaders to clarify their position on protecting outgoing leaders over the summer, after Jayapal called Israel a “racist state.” Jeffries and his team reassured liberals that they would continue the policy of defending incumbents.

This is not a controversial position within the party, even among Democrats who have sharply criticized the party’s left wing on Israel-related issues. representative Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) for his criticism of Israel, acknowledged that Jeffries had “a responsibility to make sure we reach 218” but also “that we support our members.”

Still, it’s unclear what Jeffries can do to deter AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups. The United Democracy Project, a super PAC led by AIPAC, and the DMFI PAC, led by the Democratic Majority for Israel, are already expanding for the 2024 cycle. The UDP is running negative ad against Lee in his district as well as an advertisement aimed at the representative. Jamal Bowman (DN.Y.). Lee faces a credible primary challenge from Bhavini Patel, and Westchester County Executive George Latimer has been touted as Bowman’s challenger.

DMFI is also running an ad against Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of Congress, that highlights her criticism of the Israeli government.

“These anti-Israel members have already crossed that threshold. So the real question is, as I said before: can we make an impact here? said DMFI President Mark Mellman, describing how the PAC decides where to spend the money.

In the last cycle, DMFI PAC spent $7.5 million on independent expenditures and UDP spent $26 million, according to OpenSecrets. United Democracy Project did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s not just House leaders signaling they will defend incumbents — the Black Caucus PAC is also publicly pledging to support them. Several of the targeted lawmakers are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which Bowman called “a problem for me because this is a country that historically has undermined black leadership.”

“The (CBC) PAC has already supported them and we will support them the same way we support all of our endorsed candidates,” the representative said. Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.), the head of the CBC PAC.

Meeks said he hasn’t spoken specifically to any of those members, many of whom are CBC members, about their primaries, but is considering supporting them.

AIPAC’s heavy spending has particularly angered Democrats, many of whom have criticized the influx of outside money. Small fundraisers that supported many progressive members in their early races have dried up this year, making them more vulnerable to primary challenges. Small fundraisers, defined as donations of less than $200 each, are declining for campaigns and federal campaign committees of both parties, giving additional influence to donors with big checks and outside spending.

Bush, for example, only reported about $20,000 in cash as of the last FEC filing deadline. She said, however, that she feels confident about the support she has in her district, adding that she saw an increase in donations after her opponent, Wesley Bell, announced he was challenging her. She told POLITICO in an interview that in addition to financial support, she wants leaders to openly support her and refute attacks on her tenure in Congress.

“The support really represents the truth of what’s happening,” she said. “Because the fact is, people are going to try to smear this work. »

representative Marc Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the progressive PAC, was particularly concerned about AIPAC’s spending during the Democratic primaries given the group’s Republican donors.

“We just wanted to continue to talk about how to ensure that an entity like AIPAC — if it’s not in the Republican primaries, shouldn’t be playing into the Democratic primaries,” he said of the group conversation with party leaders.

Ally Mutnick contributed to this report.

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