As I noted earlier this week, the Emergency Committee for Israel has been running a TV ad in Wisconsin accusing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the Democrats’ nominee for U.S. Senate, of “extremism” on foreign policy.
It now turns out that one of the main pieces of evidence that the ECI is pointing to in its effort to paint Baldwin as an extremist was an amendment she supported that was also backed by nearly half of the U.S. House of Representatives, including almost every Jewish member.
In their letter, Baldwin’s lawyers seemed genuinely mystified as to what ECI is even referring to when its ad says: “This year she even attacked the NYPD for monitoring Islamic extremists” and "opposed watching Islamic extremists." The lawyers wrote that the congresswoman has not sponsored or voted for any resolutions condemning the New York Police Department’s surveillance program.
Now ECI has helped clear things up.
In a letter responding to the lawyers’ complaints, ECI’s executive director, Noah Pollak, notes that Baldwin voted for a measure that come to be known as the “Holt amendment." Pollak correctly states that this amendment was promoted by its sponsor, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), as a response to the sort actions being taken by the NYPD. (Indeed, Holt criticized the NYPD’s program in his floor speech introducing his amendment.)
But there are a few additional points worth noting:
First, the actual text of the amendment makes no mention of the NYPD or Muslims. The official summary describes the amendment broadly as an effort "to prohibit use of funds from going to law enforcement organizations that engage in any form of racial, ethnic, or religious profiling." In a letter to members of Congress urging them to support the Holt amendment, the American Civil Liberties Union makes no mention of the NYPD or Muslims, focusing instead on the issue of racial profiling and citing blacks and Hispanics.
Second, Holt and other critics were not objecting to the NYPD monitoring Islamic extremists but rather to what they argue was an indiscriminate approach to surveillance of Muslim communities even in the absence of any suspicions of extremism.
And finally, 193 members of Congress voted for the Holt amendment, which was defeated on a mostly party-line vote (though 16 Republicans did back it). Not a single Jewish member of Congress voted against it. (Reps. Eric Cantor and Bob Filner did not vote.)
So whatever one thinks of the merits of the amendment, it garnered plenty of support.
While the ECI ad concludes that Baldwin is "not mainstream, she’s extreme," she was not an outlier on this issue. Saying that voting for this amendment makes her extreme would mean that nearly half of the members of the House — including almost all the Jewish members — are also extreme.
Politico links to the letters from Baldwin’s lawyers and Pollak.