WASHINGTON –– House Republicans voted Thursday to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, citing her past remarks about Israel, America’s longtime ally.
Omar has been heavily critical of Israel in her position on the committee. In 2021, Omar seemingly compared Israel and the United States with the terrorist organizations Hamas and the Taliban, prompting claims that Omar is antisemitic.
Earlier today, however, Omar backed a resolution recognizing Israel as a legitimate U.S. ally and condemning antisemitism.
A dozen Jewish Democrats, led by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), issued a statement condemning those comments in June 2021.
“Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice,” the statement read.
The statement was accompanied by a House resolution condemning hate against Jewish and Muslim people.
But despite the fact that Omar, a member of “The Squad” of progressives, has drawn the ire of her party colleagues in the past, House Democrats voted unanimously against the resolution to strip her of her committee assignment. The final vote tally was 218-211, with one Democrat not at the vote.
During the House debate Thursday, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who is Jewish, noted that while House Republicans claimed the resolution was aimed at condemning anti-semitism, 90% of the House’s Jewish members opposed removing Omar from the committee.
“This is the very weaponization of anti-semitism that I as a Jewish person find repulsive, dangerous and shameful,” Phillips said in a speech on the House floor defending his vote.
The move to strip Omar of her assignment is reminiscent of a similar action taken by House Democrats after the 2020 elections. With the support of 11 Republicans, the then-majority of House Democrats voted in 2021 to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments after she encouraged violence against Democrats and amplified racist and controversial antisemitic conspiracy theories.
During a press conference following the vote, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that the move wasn’t a tit-for-tat, despite vowing last year to strip Omar and other Democrats of their committe assignments as retribution for their moves against Greene. While House Democrats opted to remove Greene from all of her committee assignments, McCarthy said Republicans only removed Omar from the committee they felt she wasn’t fit to serve on.
Omar is currently assigned to the House Education and Workforce Committee. It’s unclear whether she will be appointed to other committees during this Congress.
“I’m not removing anyone from all committees, like (Democrats) did. They cheered when they did that,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy continued to say that it wasn’t just Omar’s comments on Israel that made her unsuitable for the committee, but also her comments on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack after she said “something happened” that day.
“What does that say to other people around the world? What does that say to somebody else who wants to create another 9/11 here?” McCarthy said.
Omar’s comments about Sept. 11 in addition to those on Israel were a common theme in Republicans’ defense of their vote during House debate.
Democrats were forceful in their defense of Omar, noting that she apologized for her remarks. They called Republicans hypocritcal for defending Greene and other Republican lawmakers who have peddled antisemitic conspiracy theories. Fellow members of the Squad also characterized the resolution as an attack on the only woman of color on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“There is nothing consistent with the Republican Party’s continued attack, except for the racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), arguing that the resolution is an extension of the legacy of Islamophobia that was sparked by 9/11.
The move to oust Omar from her Foreign Affairs assignment comes after George Santos (R-N.Y.) voluntarily recused himself from all committee assignments amid public outcry. McCarthy has also ousted Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) from the Intelligence Committee.
McCarthy pointed to the controversy after Swallwell was targeted by a Chinese spy and Schiff’s statements during the Jan. 6 committee’s probe of former President Donald Trump as reasons they should be barred from the appointments. The congressmen argued that their removal was an act of “political vengeance.”
McCarthy was able to unilaterally block the two California congressmen from the Intelligence Committee due to its nature as a select committee, while removing Omar from a standing committee required a floor vote.