© 2024 Allbritton Journalism Institute
Robert Aderholt
Rep. Robert Aderholt previously proposed cutting funding for the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights by 25%. Andrew Harnik/AP

Republicans Want a Campus Antisemitism Crackdown. They Also Want Cuts to the Department That Would Handle It.

The House GOP is “not serious about combating antisemitism,” Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro told NOTUS.

House Republicans want to cut funding for the federal agency in charge of investigating discrimination on campuses, even as they try to crack down on schools over accusations of antisemitism in response to pro-Palestine protests.

The House Appropriations Committee will propose “significant cuts of 10-11%” for the subcommittee that handles funding for the Department of Education, committee Chair Tom Cole announced Thursday. While precise proposals for the department are still to be determined, it indicates House Republicans are likely to seek major funding cuts there.

The Education Department is a common punching bag for Republicans when it comes to cutting the federal budget. But this year, House Republicans have spoken extensively about the need to combat antisemitism on college campuses, including by passing a bill that specifies how the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights defines antisemitism. Despite their urgings for the Education Department to do more to combat antisemitism, GOP appropriators do not seem eager to fund it.

“I’m of the belief that more things are better done at the state level as opposed to federal level, so I’m not interested in inflating a big bureaucracy here in Washington,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt, chair of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Education. Last year, he introduced a failed GOP proposal to slash funding for the department’s Office for Civil Rights by 25%.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, a subcommittee member, called the civil rights office “incredibly redundant” and said it “should be completely eliminated.” The Georgia representative said he would push his subcommittee colleagues to cut its funding.

Clyde suggested that the Department of Justice should handle civil rights concerns at schools instead.

“I think we have an office of civil rights in the Justice Department, right? Why does every branch of the federal government need an office of civil rights?” he told NOTUS.

The Department of Education has been urging lawmakers for an increase in funding for the Office for Civil Rights, arguing that the agency has seen complaints triple since 2009, including “alarming reports of rising Antisemitism and anti-Arab discrimination in our Nation’s schools and college campuses,” per an April statement from Secretary Miguel Cardona.

In his 2025 budget proposal, President Joe Biden had called on appropriators to increase the funding for the civil rights office from the current $140 million to $162 million. The Appropriation Committee’s cuts to the subcommittee that funds the Education Department would make that impossible, one House Democratic aide told NOTUS. “With a cut like that, there’s no way you can meet the administration’s Education Department Office for Civil Rights request,” the aide said.

Daaiyah Bilal-Threats, senior director of education policy for the National Education Association, said it was “hypocritical” for House Republicans to urge action on antisemitism while not focusing on funding the department’s office of civil rights.

“The idea that we’ve got so many more complaints being filed with no additional support and funding, you know, those two things can’t both be true at the same time,” she said.


Sign up for the latest from NOTUS.


The job of improving how schools handle discrimination should fall to the federal government, Bilal-Threats argued.

“If we’re serious about addressing complaints like this and truly uncovering them … [the office] has to have the resources to do the kinds of education that their experts are skilled in doing and helping school systems understand how to apply the law, so that we prevent these kinds of claims from ever need to be filed,” Bilal-Threats said.

Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman introduced legislation to double the civil rights office’s budget from $140 million to $280 million amid the reported rise of antisemitism incidents since the Hamas attack. The bill, which currently has no GOP co-sponsors, is unlikely to be brought to the floor.

He railed on House Republicans for using antisemitism as a “political weapon.” He said he supported the recent bill to require the Department of Education to use a certain definition for antisemitism but that the legislation is “useless if there’s no funding to use the new definition.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, told NOTUS she believes that Republicans will ultimately try to slash the civil rights office’s funding because “that’s usually something that they go after.” She told NOTUS that Republican appropriators had violated a bipartisan and bicameral agreement by cutting funding for non-defense subcommittees, which will likely severely slash budgets for multiple departments, including the Department of Education.

“They’re not serious about combating antisemitism,” DeLauro said. They “use the issue as a political wedge, and I believe that’s true overall for most of them on the issue of Israel. That it is politically advantageous to them to look like they’re dividing Democrats and to curry favor.”


Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.