Republicans voted to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, a move that was clearly hypocritical and explicitly retaliatory—and decried by Democrats as racist.
The party-line vote to remove Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and the only Black Muslim woman in Congress, from the powerful committee came, was the latest promised vengeance from newly minted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Republicans have long targeted Omar, using her arguably antisemitic remarks as whataboutism to defend for their own members’ antisemitism, while at times explicitly going after her because she’s Muslim and a Black Somali immigrant. Most famously, then-President Donald Trump called for her and other members of the progressive “Squad” to “go back” to their home countries. She’s faced regular death threats.
“This is just a bunch of racist gaslighting. We all know it,” Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush, a close Omar ally, said on the House floor before the vote.
Democrats voted to remove Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar from their committees last year for making antisemitic and violent comments and embracing white supremacists—and now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy warned that he’d get back at them by expelling controversial Democrats when and if Republicans won back House control.
McCarthy was able to unilaterally remove California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee last week. But it took a House vote to go after Omar.
“This debate today is about who gets to be an American, what opinions do we get to have, do we have to have, to be counted as Americans,” Omar said on the House floor before the vote. “Is anyone surprised that I’m being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced?”
Schiff, who is Jewish, ripped Republicans for claiming the move was because Omar had made antisemitic remarks, and pointed out that they continued to embrace their own members, like Gosar and Greene, who have been unapologetic about their hardline affiliations.
“Do not insult our intelligence by suggesting this is about antisemitism,” Schiff said before the vote.
Omar has made inflammatory remarks that her fellow Democrats have condemned in the past. But it’s hard to follow the logic of why she should be removed from her committees given that Republicans just reinstated two of their own congressmen with long histories of racially charged, antisemitic, and violent comments.
In 2021, Democrats removed Greene from her committees for promoting violence against Democratic members, as well as QAnon and antisemitic conspiracies, while Gosar was kicked off after promoting an anime cartoon that featured violence against his Democratic colleagues.
Only 11 Republicans voted to remove Greene from her committees then.
Republicans pointed out that many Democrats had condemned some of Omar’s past remarks.
She tweeted in 2019 that pro-Israel advocates had pushed “allegiance to a foreign country,” which many heard as echoing the antisemitic trope that Jews hold dual allegiances and aren’t reliably patriotic to their home countries. Those remarks came years after Omar tweeted that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” another remark taken as antisemitic given centuries-old bigoted claims that Jews only care about money. Omar apologized for those latter remarks.
House Democratic leaders moved to pass a House resolution to condemn antisemitism in the wake of her latter remarks in 2019. It was eventually watered down amidst internal backlash from progressives and the Congressional Black Caucus to include condemnations of islamophobia, white supremacy, and other bigotry.
Plenty of Democrats were harshly critical of Omar’s comments at the time—something Republicans gleefully pointed out as a reason to remove her.
“Not only do representative Omar’s comments have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee, I hold that anyone who make such statements has no place serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee,” Mississippi Republican Rep. Michael Guest said as he introduced the resolution to remove Omar.
But some Republicans have expressed unease with removing Omar from her committee, saying it was hypocritical to do the same thing they’d condemned Democrats for when they removed Greene.
“The reason I think a lot of Republicans want to kick Ilhan Omar off of the Foreign Affairs Committee is because they don’t like what she has to say,” Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said earlier this week. “It’s one thing to do dangerous things to the country with our intelligence. It’s quite another to say ‘I don’t like your viewpoint, thus I want to remove you.’”
But no Republicans voted to keep Omar on the committee, while no Democrats voted for the resolution to remove her, rallying against a move they saw rooted in hypocrisy and racism.
“I stand before you as a proud Jew and a proud friend and colleague of Ilhan Omar. I don’t need any of you to defend me against antisemitism, my friends,” said Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky. “We have seen all kinds of antisemitism from the other side of the aisle.”
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