House GOP votes to oust Democrat Omar from major committee

By KEVIN FREKING and LISA MASCARO – Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led House voted to oust Democrat Ilhan Omar from the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee after a heated debate Thursday, citing her anti-Israel comments, in a dramatic escalation after Democrats in last session far-right GOP MPs booted for arson had remarks.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was able to solidify Republican support against the Somali-born Muslim in the new Congress, despite voiced reservations by some GOP lawmakers. The removal of lawmakers from House committees was essentially unprecedented until two years ago when Democrats ousted far-right Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona.

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The 218-211 vote along the party line came after a heated debate in which Democrats accused the GOP of targeting Omar because of her race. Defending herself on the House floor, Omar asked if anyone was surprised she was targeted, “because when you push power, power pushes back.” Democratic colleagues hugged and hugged their colleague during the vote.

“My voice will grow louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world,” Omar said in a closing speech.

Republicans focused on six statements Omar made that “under the circumstances, she would be disqualified from serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee,” said Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss.

“All members, both Republicans and Democrats, who wish to engage in foreign affairs engagements should adhere to the highest standards of conduct due to the international sensitivity and national security concerns under the purview of this committee,” Guest said.

The resolution, proposed by Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former Trump administration official, stated, “Omar’s comments have brought shame to the House of Representatives.”

New York Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said Omar at times “made mistakes” and used anti-Semitic language condemned by House Democrats four years ago. But that’s not what Thursday’s vote was about, he said.

“It’s not about accountability, it’s about political revenge,” Jeffries said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went a step further, saying that the GOP’s action was one of the “disgusting legacies after 9/11,” a reference to the 11 Muslim-American attack in the United States. And this is an extension of that legacy.”

She added, “This is about appealing to women of color.”

Omar is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. She is also the first to wear a hijab in the House of Representatives chamber after the floor rule was changed to allow members to wear head coverings for religious reasons.

She quickly sparked controversy after entering Congress in 2019 with two tweets suggesting lawmakers supporting Israel were motivated by money.

In the first, she criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. “It’s all about Benjamin’s baby,” she wrote, invoking the slang about $100 bills.

Asked on Twitter who she thinks she pays congressmen to support Israel, Omar replied: “AIPAC!”

The comments sparked a public rebuke from then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, who made it clear that Omar had overstepped.

“We must always be willing to step back and consider criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” Omar tweeted. “So I apologize unequivocally.”

Democrats rallied in a fiery defense of Omar and the experience she brings to Congress.

Black, Latino and progressive lawmakers in particular spoke of their unique voice in the House of Representatives and criticized Republicans for what they called a racist attack.

“Racist gaslighting,” said Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo. A “revenge resolution,” said Rep. Primila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the progressive caucus.

“It hurts so much to watch,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who entered Congress in 2019 with Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to the House of Representatives.

“To Congresswoman Omar, I am so sorry that our country is letting you down through this chamber today,” Tlaib said through tears. “You belong on this committee.”

Omar’s earlier comments were among several statements highlighted in resolutions calling for her removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, advocated removing Omar from the panel during a recent closed meeting with fellow Republicans.

“It’s just that their worldview of Israel is so diametrically opposed to that of the committee,” McCaul told reporters, describing his stance. “I don’t mind having disagreements, but this goes beyond that.”

McCarthy has already blocked Reps Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both California Democrats, from rejoining the House Intelligence Committee after the GOP took control of the chamber in January. While appointments to the Intelligence Panel are the Speaker’s prerogative, action on Omar will require a vote in the House of Representatives.

Several Republicans, skeptical about Omar’s impeachment, called for a “due process” for lawmakers facing impeachment. McCarthy said he told them he would work with Democrats to create a due process system, but acknowledged it was a work in progress.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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