By Annie Grayer, CNN
Two House Democrats are planning on introducing a resolution this week condemning Hamas’ use of sexual violence and rape against Israeli women in the wake of Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s comments to CNN’s Dana Bash that upset a number of her Democratic colleagues.
While Jayapal condemned the rape of Israeli women by Hamas and called it “horrific” on CNN’s “State of the Union,” she pointed out that over 15,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks in Gaza since the start of the war and said, “I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.”
Jayapal’s comments have set off a firestorm within the Congressional Progressive Caucus and speak to the broader divisions within the Democratic Party over how to address the war between Israel and Hamas. Her remarks come as Democrats have struggled to reconcile support for Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the October 7 attacks and rising protests, especially on the left, over the devastation in Gaza.
Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, who left the Progressive Caucus last month due to divisions within the group over the war, has begun drafting the resolution, a Democratic lawmaker familiar with the plans told CNN.
A source familiar with Frankel’s thinking told CNN combating rape as a weapon of war is a long-standing priority for the congresswoman and the resolution was not drafted as a response to any comments made by other members.
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, a member of the progressive group, told CNN’s Kasie Hunt on Monday she plans to introduce the resolution with Frankel this week and is going to talk to Jayapal about her comments.
“I’m going to talk to Pramila,” Dingell said on “State of the Race” on Monday. “I’m just going to speak for myself on this subject. And I’m raw on this subject because of the hate that I have had directed at me for speaking the truth. I will speak the truth.”
A number of progressives in the caucus have raised concerns that Jayapal is speaking publicly in her capacity as chair when the group, which represents a broad spectrum of opinions, has not taken an official position on any of these complicated issues pertaining to the war, another Democratic lawmaker familiar with the conversations told CNN.
In response, CPC spokeswoman Mia Jacobs told CNN, “The CPC’s policy is that the Caucus does not take positions on Israel and Palestine. Every member speaks for themselves, and any actions are in their personal capacity.”
Jewish Democrats specifically have been voicing their frustrations with Jayapal’s recent comments both publicly and with their colleagues, accusing Jayapal of being tone deaf for not unequivocally condemn Hamas’ use of rape against Israeli women, according to lawmakers familiar with the conversations.
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, an outspoken Jewish member of Congress, said on X following Jayapal’s interview, “Hamas terrorists raped Israeli women and girls. The only ‘balanced’ approach is to condemn sexual violence loudly, forcefully and without exceptions. Outrageous for anyone to ‘both sides’ sexual violence.”
Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres, a strong supporter of Israel, told Bash on CNN on Monday that Democrats are not divided over whether to condemn Hamas, but rather there is a “fringe” group that uses “provocative language” and is “fundamentally unrepresentative of the mainstream.”
The White House on Monday condemned Hamas and the use of rape as a weapon in war when asked about Jayapal’s comments.
“I can only speak for the president – that’s who I can speak for,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. “And we’ve been clear what Hamas did is absolutely reprehensible and full stop. We’re going to continue to be clear about that. And we think about … the use of rape as being used as a weapon; That is also reprehensible, and that’s full stop but I’ll just leave it there.”
CNN’s Aileen Graef contributed to this report.
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