On Thursday, House Republicans voted 218 to 211 to remove Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a three-time progressive, from the Foreign Affairs Committee. It’s an act that represents the GOP’s latest attempt at political revenge for the behavior of the Democrats during the last Congress.
Republicans have been eager to attack certain Democrats and their committee assignments since Representatives Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) were removed from their committees by a bipartisan vote last term over threats of political violence. engaged.
Previously, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had excluded Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) from serving on the House Select Committee on Intelligence. McCarthy has criticized Schiff for his handling of President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial claims that Schiff provided false information as part of it. He has also pointed to connections Swalwell had with a Chinese intelligence agent, though lawmakers have not been accused of wrongdoing, per Axios. Swalwell and Schiff, both outspoken and high-profile critics of Trump, have denounced McCarthy’s actions as an act of “political revenge”.
Since those seats were on a select committee, McCarthy could single-handedly block both legislators. However, a majority of the House had to vote on a resolution to remove Omar from the State Department.
All 211 Democrats present opposed the resolution, while 218 Republicans voted in favor and one Republican — Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) – voted in attendance.
The Republicans’ case against Omar in the State Department centered on statements she has made in the past that some have labeled anti-Semitic, including describing US lawmakers’ support for Israel as “all about the Benjamins,” a remark who was also condemned by Democrats as trading in -Semitic tropes. After protests, Omar apologized for her comments. Before Thursday’s vote, Omar also co-sponsored a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and recognizing “Israel as America’s legitimate and democratic ally.”
The focus on Omar’s committee assignments also marks the last time the lawmaker, an American Muslim woman and Somali refugee, has been targeted and singled out by Republicans, including members of the far right.
Earlier Rep. Lauren Boebert launches Islamophobic attacks on Omar at the end of 2021; Boebert faced minimal condemnation from Republican leaders. Omar has also been the subject of racist attacks from Trump and the subject of violent images from Greene. This history has led some Islamic American activists to suggest the push to remove Omar from the foreign affairs committee was just another game for nativist elements of the GOP base.
Democrats have also argued that Omar has again been unfairly targeted and that her actions have been wrongly equated with those of Gosar and Greene.
“You cannot remove a congressman from a committee simply because you disagree with their views,” Pramila Jayapal, president of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement. “This is both ridiculous and dangerous. During the last Congress, Republican members were removed from committees by a bipartisan vote for endangering the safety of their colleagues.
Why Republicans Want to Remove Omar
McCarthy has made it clear he’s been interested in going after Omar since last year, when Republicans regained control of the House. At that moment, Omar suggested that the GOP’s attempts to disempower her were personaland she was even more pointed in a recent interview with CNN.
Referring to the repeated racist and Islamophobic attacks she has faced in the past from Republicans, she said, “These members don’t believe that a Muslim refugee, an African, should even be in Congress.”
This week’s resolution, introduced by Representative Max Miller (R-OH), claimed that earlier comments Omar made are anti-Semitic and should disqualify her from serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee. She has “tried to undermine the relationship between the United States and Israel, one of the most important strategic alliances we have.” Miller said in a statement.
McCarthy has said he likes Omar being on other committees, but not the State Department, which she has been for the past two terms.
Not all Republicans were initially on board with McCarthy’s plan. A few Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), initially opposed it claiming it would set a worrying example for both sides to use in the future. Others, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), said they weren’t sure how to vote because they believe that New York Times editorially argued, Omar brings a important stance in foreign policy discussions. In the end, nearly all Republicans voted for the resolution.
In addition to his specific grievances with Omar, McCarthy has stressed that Democrats set a precedent by voting to remove Gosar and Greene from their committees last term. “What they started cannot easily be undone. Their actions today and in the past have forever changed the way the House works,” McCarthy said in a speech after the vote to remove Gosar from committees. While commission turnover occurs each term, specific members of the minority party are removed by the majority party had not happened in modern times when Greene was stripped of assignments in 2021.
However, Democrats have said that Greene and Gosar’s scenarios were different from Omar’s. In Greene’s case, she was disciplined for sharing posts promoting violence against other lawmakers, including an image of her holding a gun next to images of members of the squad. Greene was also criticized racist comments and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories she shared, including from McCarthy herself. Gosar was stripped of commissions after posting an animated video portraying him beating Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) killed and waved guns at President Joe Biden.
On the two ballots, Republicans voted with Democrats for their respective removals; 11 Republicans supported Greene’s removal, while Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — Republicans more willing than most to be critical of their party, and no longer in Congress — supported Gosar’s.
Democrats have stressed that they took action against Greene and Gosar because Republicans themselves refused to punish extremist members. 2019, Republican leadership for example, removed Rep. Steve King out of commissions after endorsing white supremacy. They have repeatedly argued that Omar’s actions are far from comparable.
“There is no reason to remove Congresswoman Omar from her committees other than revenge,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), a Democrat who has criticized some of Omar’s previous comments, told Politico. “We removed the congressman [Paul] Gosar and [Marjorie] Taylor Greene for threatening violence against other members, including death. That’s not something Congressman Omar did.”