Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) voted against the bill on Monday that would expand the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s education programming to teachers nationwide, requiring the museum to develop and disseminate resources to improve awareness and understanding of the Holocaust and its lessons.
In explaining his vote, Norman told JNS:
Let there be no doubt about my record on fighting anti-Semitism: I am a member of three separate caucuses opposing anti-Semitism and a cosponsor of many more bills and letters that combat BDS, support the state of Israel, and raise awareness of the increase in violence and vitriol against Jewish people at home and abroad.
My vote on H.R. 943 was not motivated by my views on antisemitism, but about my views on the role of the federal government and its lack of fiscal restraint.
It is my view, that education is a devolved power reserved for the States under the Constitution.
This principle would not be much of a principle at all if I were to only apply it to the things that I do not agree with. So although I wholeheartedly agree with the need and appropriateness of teaching future generations about the horrors of the holocaust, I do not believe it is appropriate for the federal government to demand it.
Additionally, I am convinced that the Department of Education already has the resources necessary to complete this program, and am not prepared to appropriate even more funds, with no accountability or offsets, at a time when our national debt is exceeding $23 trillion.
Massie told JNS, “The bill authorizes $10 million in spending for the Department of Education, a department that I’ve introduced legislation to eliminate [H.R. 899]. Furthermore, the bill directs money to develop content for the website of the privately funded Holocaust museum. The surest way to ruin a private website is to let the federal government work on it.”
The House legislation, however, would have that funding go towards to the Holocaust Education Assistance Program Fund, administered by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s governing body, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
The original House version designated the U.S. Department of Education to oversee the program. The Senate version, which was introduced in July by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), is identical to that. It currently has 28 co-sponsors: 18 Democrats, nine Republicans and one Independent.
“We’re two different bodies,” said Maloney on Monday ahead of the vote when asked by JNS about the discrepancy.
She explained that “there was some disagreement about how the curriculum should be handled, and I just felt that it would be better to move it to the Holocaust museum, where it would become the prime focus of that museum to tell the story, to preserve it and to combat anti-Semitism.”
In explaining his vote against the bill, Rice told JNS:
As I’m sure you’re aware, the federal government spends billions on education every year, including education about history in general, and the Holocaust in particular. With respect to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, the federal government undertakes numerous efforts both here and abroad to memorialize and educate. As just one of these many efforts, the federal government funds the Holocaust Memorial Museum and Holocaust Memorial Council to the tune of over $50 million a year. Since its creation in 1993, the Holocaust Memorial Museum has effectively educated people of all ages while also preserving millions of artifacts and providing teacher fellows in every U.S. state. I could not support adding to our deficit to fund another duplicative federal program.
Arrington’s office told the website of investigative reporter Sara Carter that while the congressman “strongly agrees with the sentiment of the bill,” the issue was about not increasing the size of “the federal bureaucracy.”
Nevertheless, Arrington “is steadfast in his support for our ally Israel, the Jewish people, and our constitutional religious liberties,” according to a statement from his office. “He believes H.R. 943 The Never Again Education Act, like a lot of legislation, was well-intended and strongly agrees with the sentiment of the bill—that we must educate every generation about the atrocities of the Holocaust and ensure it never happens again.
“However, growing the federal bureaucracy and expanding the Department of Education’s role in public education, which is an issue of state sovereignty and local responsibility, is the wrong approach. States and local school boards, NOT Washington, should ensure our children are getting the best education, including on the subject of the Holocaust and human atrocities of all kinds, in all places and against all peoples.”
In response to Norman and Arrington, RJC executive director Matt Brooks told Jewish Insider that “there comes a time when you have to take votes that go beyond process. And, I think, especially now with this time of rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. and around the world, the symbolism of this and the importance of the government standing up and showing its support for Holocaust education outweighs any process concerns.”
Brooks noted that others in the Republican caucus may have had similar misgivings or concerns about this process, but “they did the right thing, and looked beyond that to stand up against anti-Semitism and to stand with the Jewish community. So we remain disappointed in their votes. We think that they voted absolutely the wrong way on that, no matter how they want to justify it.”
At the end of the day, said Brooks, “we don’t think that this vote is a reflection of their views on anti-Semitism, but it makes it so that we will not be supporting any of those individuals going forward.”
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