GOP lawmaker: University presidents ‘are just wimps’

For all the latest developments in Congress, follow WTOP Capitol Hill correspondent Mitchell Miller at Today on the Hill.

Congressional Republicans have been unified in their criticism of university administrators, charging that many have been weak and inconsistent in their response to protests on college campuses.

“We’ve got university presidents and university faculty that are just wimps — just wimps,” said U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.

Scott is among the GOP lawmakers who have seized on what they believe is a lack of decisiveness in the response to pro-Palestinian protests, which have led to campus unrest across the country.

Republicans believe they have found a politically potent issue during this election year, which has quickly overshadowed what had been months of efforts to drum up support in Congress for the impeachment of President Joe Biden.

The shift in strategy was evident this week in the actions of House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer, who has led hearings in connection with the impeachment inquiry of the president.

Those hearings, often billed as an investigation into the “Biden crime family,” have failed to specifically connect the president to any evidence of wrongdoing involving international business deals reached by his son Hunter Biden.

Comer, R-Ky., along with other Republicans, was instead on the campus of George Washington University in downtown D.C. this week, questioning how Mayor Muriel Bowser has dealt with campus demonstrations.

Comer has scheduled a hearing related to the response to the GW protest for Wednesday and called on the mayor and the police chief to testify.

“We want to ensure that the Washington police is working with campus police to ensure the safety of Jewish students,” Comer said.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., accompanied Comer and suggested that the mayor might need to call in the National Guard if the situation didn’t improve.

The mayor, however, cannot activate the National Guard on her own since D.C. is not a state. That power rests with the U.S. president.

Cutting off federal funds to universities

House Speaker Mike Johnson has directed committee chairs to carry out wide-ranging investigations into how college administrators are dealing with the demonstrations.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, has called for administrators from Yale, UCLA and Michigan to testify before her panel later this month.
House and Senate Republicans have threatened to penalize universities that don’t adequately protect Jewish students on their campuses.

“These ‘Little Gazas’ are disgusting cesspools of antisemitic hate,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark, who’s been an outspoken critic of universities. “The Department of Education needs to withhold funding for colleges that won’t protect civil rights for Jewish students.”

More than 130 investigations involving the civil rights of students are underway, but they can take a long time to complete.

Democrats charge that Republicans have failed to back up their political rhetoric, by rejecting earlier proposals from the Biden administration to increase funding for civil rights investigations.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., suggested during a floor debate on an antisemitism bill that GOP lawmakers appear to have suddenly rediscovered threats to Jewish people.

“If my Republican colleagues were serious about antisemitism, they would have spoken up after neo-Nazis in Charlottesville chanted, ‘Jews will not replace us,'” he said.

The bipartisan antisemitism legislation passed overwhelmingly.

The Senate plans to consider the bill, but lawmakers said this week they wanted more time to review it.

House Speaker Johnson gets help — from Democrats

Johnson appears to be galvanized by the unity the GOP is showing in connection with the response to the campus protests. He’s also predicting that the issue will hurt Democrats, who have been divided over issues involving Gaza and Israel.

Many younger voters sympathize with the Palestinians and have been critical of President Biden for not doing more to pressure Israel to agree to a cease-fire.

But Johnson still has to deal with a political thorn in his side — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

She argues that Republicans will lose support from voters if they allow Johnson to remain as speaker, since he’s been willing to work with Democrats.

Greene plans to bring up a motion to vacate the chair this coming week, in an effort to oust Johnson from the speakership.

“Mike Johnson is not capable of that job. He has proven it over and over again,” Greene said at a crowded news conference outside of the U.S. Capitol.

But Democratic leaders have said they will help Johnson keep his job, by voting to table Greene’s motion, which would effectively kill it.

Greene said she is undeterred and wants every lawmaker to go on record in a floor vote.

The Georgia lawmaker was flanked at her news conference by poster board pictures of Johnson embracing the House’s top Democrat, Hakeem Jeffries.

Greene accuses the political leaders of creating a “uniparty” that is only beholden to their own interests.

But Greene has found herself increasingly isolated. Many Republicans don’t want the specter of chaos to return, as the campaign season ramps up.

And while Green has indicated she still speaks regularly with former President Donald Trump, he appeared with Johnson a few weeks ago at Mar-a-Lago and praised him.

That appeared to reduce the political heat on Johnson, even though he will soon face a vote from a member of his own party to get rid of him.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up