House Foreign Affairs Chair: New 'Ultra-Left' Democrats 'Not My Cup of Tea'

Rep. Eliot Engel / Getty Images
May 13, 2019

New York congressman Eliot Engel, the chair of the House foreign affairs committee, is not a fan of his new "ultra-left" colleagues within the House Democratic majority.

Engel, who has been viewed as one of Congress's more liberal members over the span of his 30-year political career, made the admission during a recent interview with the American Jewish Committee's "Passport" podcast.

"There are a handful of people that aren't my cup of tea, but we have to transcend that and we will, and we have been," said Engel, as first reported by the New York Post.

The admission came when Engel was asked to discuss how his longstanding support for Israel contrasted with newer members of the Democratic majority, like fellow representatives Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.). Both women have made controversial statements about Israel and Jewish Americans that are widely seen as anti-Semitic. Omar in particular, has accused political groups representing the Jewish community of "paying off" elected officials to be pro-Israel.

Engel, who himself is Jewish, was one of the first to denounce Omar's rhetoric, calling on her to apologize for the "vile anti-Semitic slur." Although Engel strongly rebuked Omar, he stopped short of removing her from his committee, despite calls from House Republicans to do so.

"I don't want Israel used as a political football by the ultra-left or the ultra-right," Engel said during the podcast. The congressman also discussed the recent increase in hate-crimes, especially against Jewish-Americans.

"Even in New York City, of all places," Engel said. "It only takes one jerk to do these things," he said, referencing the recent painting of a swastika.

On the podcast, Engel didn't reference the controversy directly and didn't mention the new Democratic lawmakers by name, but said, "It's not that Israel can't be criticized. It's just, I know when things are anti-Semitic, being Jewish, I have a feeling … we all know it when we see it."