Sen. John Fetterman Breaks With Progressives On Border & Israel

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania) is causing a stir in the Senate by seemingly making an about-face turn on the progressive politics that won him his job in 2022.

He has recently taken loud stances on immigration reform, calling for tighter border security and has been vocal in his support for Israel in their ongoing conflict with the nation of Gaza.

Fetterman entered politics in 2005, when he ran for mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania,  and ascended to lieutenant governor by 2018.

In 2022, he ran his second campaign for the Senate on progressive policies like legalizing marijuana, abolishing the Senate filibuster and raising the minimum wage.

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But Fetterman has begun to sing a different tune as of late, declaring on NBC News, “I am not a progressive, I just think I am a Democrat that is very committed to choice and other things.”

On immigration, he has called for Democrats to take a tougher stance at the border. “I hope Democrats can understand that it isn’t xenophobic to be concerned about the border.” He has called the number of encounters at the border in recent months (272,000 according to data released by Border Patrol) “astonishing.”

“You essentially have Pittsburgh showing up at the border,” he said.

While Fetterman is severing his ties to the progressive movement, he is far from breaking with party lines. Fetterman still aligns with President Joe Biden on his immigration policy. The president has been pushing for Congress to agree on an immigration bill that would include aid for Israel and Ukraine.

The bill would include measures that would reduce the number of migrants granted asylum, and limit the number allowed to live in the U.S. while their cases are reviewed. Fetterman said he won’t support the much harsher immigration bill H.R. 2 proposed by House Republicans.

Another telling move away from the progressive left is Fetterman’s staunch support of Israel. More than any senator, Republican or Democrat, Fetterman has made it clear where he stands. He has been photographed many times of late waving a miniature Israeli flag, and said on NBC during the same interview he declared he was not a progressive that, “with Israel, I’m going to be on the right side of that.”

On Wednesday, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) released an amendment to a pending national security bill that affirms the United States’ support for a two-state solution in the Middle East. Fetterman and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) were the only two Democrats who didn’t sign on to the amendment.

Fetterman’s turn on immigration has surprised many, particularly due to his wife being a Brazilian immigrant who was a “Dreamer,” an undocumented immigrant who arrived in the U.S. before age 16.

But his position on Israel should be less shocking to those who have been watching the senator.

In an interview with Jewish Insider in 2022, deep in the throws of his race for Senate as a self-declared progressive, he said, “Whenever I’m in a situation to be called on to take up the cause of strengthening and enhancing the security of Israel or deepening our relationship between the United States and Israel, I’m going to lean in…  I would also respectfully say that I’m not really a progressive in that sense.”

Clark Franzman

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