Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was dismissed from the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday due to preliminary remarks she made about Israel that were widely regarded as antisemitic. Republicans moved to appease right-wing members and punish a Democrat their party has long demonized.
The 218-to-211 party-line vote, which had one member cast a “present” vote, resolved a partisan dispute that had been simmering since 2021, when the House, which Democrats then controlled, demoted Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Arizona’s Paul Gosar from committee chairs for social media posts they made endorsing violence against Democrats.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of California had threatened to respond if his party won control of the House by expelling Democrats they deemed unqualified to serve on committees. By removing Ms. Omar, he made good on that threat. Last week, he dismissed California’s Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Members are chosen by appointment and are not put to the vote.
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In the early days of his new majority, Mr. McCarthy decided to force Ms. Omar’s removal, a move that some of his rank-and-file members resisted. This action showed his determination to win over the hard-right Republican base, which has made the Somali-born Ms. Omar a target for some of its most vicious attacks. Even though Ms. Omar was the only one not born in the United States, former president Donald J. Trump famously said in 2019 that she and three other progressive women of color should “go back” to their countries.
The vote on Thursday was also an attempt by Mr. McCarthy to alienate Democrats, many of whom had denounced Ms. Omar’s remarks regarding Israel, and win over evangelical and pro-Israel groups.
Democrats and Republicans criticized Ms. Omar in 2019 for tweeting that some pro-Israel organizations were “all about the Benjamins, baby,” appearing to refer to $100 bills in what was perceived as evoking an antisemitic cliche about Jews and money. Later, she expressed regret for the remark. Two years later, Ms. Omar compared “atrocities” committed by the American military to those carried out by terrorist organizations like the Taliban and Hamas; she later clarified that she had not intended to do so.
However, during an unusually emotional debate on the House floor on Thursday, prominent Democrats, including many Jewish representatives, stood by Ms. Omar’s side and defended her in passionate and occasionally tearful speeches. When Republicans attacked her, they were accused of being hypocritical, xenophobic, and racist for doing so while remaining silent about antisemitic remarks made by members of their party, some of whom have ties to Holocaust denial.
The leading Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Gregory W. Meeks of New York, stated that “a flagrant double standard is being imposed here.” “Something doesn’t seem right. What distinguishes Representative Omar from these lawmakers? Could her appearance be the cause? Could it be that she practices religion?”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, was blunter about Ms. Omar’s expulsion. According to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, “this is about targeting women of color in the United States of America.”
Republicans presented their case for Ms. Omar’s removal comparatively calmly. Representative Mike Lawler of New York said, “Individuals who hold such hateful views should rightly be barred from that committee.” Words have power—speech matters. The lawmaker is held accountable for her comments and conduct because it caused harm.
During the floor debate, in which more Democrats than Republicans spoke in support of Ms. Omar, Mr. McCarthy and the members of his leadership team were nowhere to be found. Following the vote, Mr. McCarthy defended the removal of Ms. Omar, telling reporters that it wasn’t “tit for tat” but was based on her remarks.
Mr. McCarthy clarified, “I’m not removing people from all committees. Ms. Omar has been removed from just one panel, unlike Ms. Greene and Mr. Gosar.
But in recent weeks, his attempt to remove Ms. Omar stalled and almost failed, underlining the difficulties Mr. McCarthy confronts as he attempts to carry out his promised agenda with a razor-thin majority that has already shown itself to be unruly. Some Republicans were worried about setting a precedent by expelling a lawmaker for her views and statements, especially by a party that regularly criticizes “cancel culture,” and about appearing hypocritical after railing against the removals of Ms. Greene and Mr. Gosar.
After Mr. McCarthy negotiated for days, all but one Republican finally agreed. Ohio Representative David Joyce cast a “present” vote on the Democrats’ resolution to kick Mr. Gosar out of the party.
The discussion surrounding the action became heated, especially after Ms. Omar gave a defiant speech in which she defended herself. “Take your vote or not — I am here to stay,” she said to cheers and applause from her coworkers.
Just before the members voted, Ms. Omar claimed that the decision to expel her was a logical continuation of the untrue “birther” conspiracy theory, supported by Mr. Trump, that former President Barack Obama, the first Black person to hold the office, was a Muslim who was born in Africa.
“I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. And interestingly, from Africa,” Ms. Omar said on the House floor. “Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy?”
The removal of Ms. Omar marked the end of a first month in the House that was more notable for political gamesmanship and messaging than serious policy initiatives. Mr. McCarthy made several concessions to his hard-right opponents during a historic battle for the speaker’s gavel to win their support. Since then, he has been paying off those debts, among other things, by appointing ultraconservatives to influential committees and creating a new panel to look into the “weaponization of government.”
AOC just threw an utter temper tantrum on House floor after Ilhan Omar REMOVED from Foreign Affairs Committee 🤡
This, alone, makes it worth it. WATCH.
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) February 2, 2023
Legislation that would defund I.R.S. enforcement against tax cheats, prosecute some abortion providers, and end federal coronavirus vaccine mandates and precautions have all been passed by the House but are all doomed in the Senate.
Rep. George Santos of New York, a troubled Republican freshman who has admitted to lying about his background and is under investigation for multiple counts of fraud, set the stage for Ms. Omar’s expulsion this week when he said he would step down from his committee assignments until his name was cleared. Democrats mocked Mr. McCarthy for standing up for Mr. Santos while attacking Ms. Omar, Mr. Schiff, and Mr. Swalwell, turning him into a lightning rod for accusations of a double standard.
However, some Republicans remained uneasy about the decision and refused to support it until Mr. McCarthy agreed to amend the legislation to mention members’ authority to appeal such judgments to the Ethics Committee. This procedure was already open to them.
Representative Victoria Spartz of Indiana explained her support for the resolution during the floor debate by stating that Mr. McCarthy “added explicitly to this resolution to make sure that we apply the same standard not just to Democrats, but to Republicans.”
Some Republicans felt that this step was insufficient. A promise from Mr. McCarthy to strengthen the appeals process for members facing punitive actions in the future won over most of the remaining holdouts. Representative Ken Buck of Colorado was one of the more conservative opponents. If you want some other information like this, then do visit our Digitalnewsexpert.com.