Democratic Senators in Swing States Mum on Schumer's Call for Israelis To Depose Bibi

Of the six states expected to decide Senate majority, only Nevada's Jacky Rosen has addressed Schumer's call for Israeli elections

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
March 19, 2024

Days after Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) took the unprecedented step of calling on Israelis to depose their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, several of his Democratic colleagues praised the move, including Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Patty Murray (Wash.).

Others, however, are staying mum, and they just happen to include virtually all of the Democrats running in swing states. Nor did any of them respond to requests for comment from the Washington Free Beacon regarding whether they share Schumer's view. They include Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, Montana's Jon Tester, and Ohio's Sherrod Brown. Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin—who is running to replace the state's outgoing senator, Debbie Stabenow—has also remained silent, as have her fellow House colleagues running for Senate seats, Rubén Gallego of Arizona and David Trone of Maryland.

In fact, only a single Senate Democrat running in a competitive race has addressed Schumer's remark head-on: Nevada's Jacky Rosen, who issued a statement indicating she did not share his views. "Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East, and as a democracy, it is up to the Israeli people to determine their political future," Rosen said in a statement.

The collective silence suggests that Democrats are wary both of provoking the Democratic Party's progressive flank, which has been harshly critical of President Joe Biden's support for Israel, and of alienating the pro-Israel voters who make up a majority of the country.

In Slotkin's Michigan, for example, more than 100,000 Democrats voted "uncommitted" in the state's presidential primary after anti-Israel activists organized a protest vote to pressure Biden into calling for an Israeli ceasefire.

At the time, Slotkin said she backed Biden in the primary but also expressed support for those who voted "uncommitted."

"I respect people's right to express themselves—people have told me why they are voting that way," Slotkin said during a February MSNBC appearance. "You can't deny people's emotions about this issue."

Baldwin, Casey, Tester, Brown, Slotkin, Gallego, and Trone did not respond to requests for comment.

Several of their colleagues, however—those who don't face competitive races in November and those who aren't up for reelection at all—have heaped praise on Schumer's remarks. Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, for example, said Schumer's speech was "important."

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren had more fulsome praise for the majority leader. "He's right," Warren said. "The Netanyahu government has created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza that is bleeding support for Israel all around the world." Both Murphy and Warren are expected to secure reelection in November.

In addition to Rosen, one other swing-state Senate Democrat—Pennsylvania's John Fetterman—criticized Schumer's call to oust Netanyahu. Fetterman, who is just 14 months into his first term in the upper chamber after defeating Republican Mehmet Oz in 2022, said he "would demand that there be no foreign influence on our elections, so I'm not in that."

Fetterman's outspokenness stands in contrast to his fellow Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey, whose Republican opponent, former Bridgewater CEO Dave McCormick, is now accusing the senator of "hiding." Casey responded in an interview with PennLive, describing himself as "a very strong supporter of Israel"—though he did not mention Schumer or Netanyahu.

Schumer's remarks came Thursday in a speech on the Senate floor in which he argued that Netanyahu "has lost his way" and that it is time for a "new election" in Israel.

"He has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows," Schumer said. "At this critical juncture, I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel."

Netanyahu said the speech was "totally inappropriate," adding that a new election is "something for the Israeli public to decide."

At least one Senate hopeful, Maryland Democrat Angela Alsobrooks, who is facing off against Trone in a primary, has echoed Schumer's rhetoric. During a February campaign event held prior to the majority leader's speech, Alsobrooks called for "another partner" in Israel to deliver a two-state solution.

"We have to find a partner who believes in a two-state solution. Netanyahu has said he does not believe in it," said Alsobrooks. "And so we need another partner. We need a partner who believes in peace and prosperity, the two-state solution."

Alsobrooks did not return a request for comment.