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House votes to oust Rep. Ilhan Omar from Foreign Affairs Committee

Democrats said GOP members targeted Omar because former Speaker Nancy Pelosi successfully stripped Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar of their committee jobs.

Rep. Ilhan Omar walking to her office after being ousted by the Republican-lead House of Representatives to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Ilhan Omar walking to her office after being ousted by the Republican-lead House of Representatives to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON — The House voted along party lines to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th District, from a panel with jurisdiction on foreign affairs, approving a GOP resolution that accused the Somalia-born lawmaker of antisemitic remarks.

Thursday’s resolutions said the Minnesota Democrat, who represents a Twin Cities-based district in Congress, “suggested that Jewish people and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) were buying political support” because of the lawmaker’s 2019 tweet that said, ‘‘It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.”

Approved on a strait party line 218-211 vote, the resolution also condemned other criticisms Omar made about Israel and about U.S.-Israel relations. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, and other GOP House leaders spent days corralling a handful of reluctant House Republicans to support the resolution. A Republican lawmaker from Ohio, Rep. David Joyce, voted “present.”

Omar has largely apologized for her controversial comments.

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During debate on the resolution on the House floor, a defiant and emotional Omar said she would not be silenced, whether she remained on the Foreign Affairs Committee or not.

“I didn’t come to Congress to be silenced,” she said. “My leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term. My voice will get louder and stronger and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been.”

Besides a poster of herself as a 9-year-old refugee, Omar said she was being attacked for her background as a Muslim who was born in Africa.

“Who gets to be an American? What opinions do you have to have to be counted as American? That is what this debate is about,” she said. “There is this idea that you are suspect if you are an immigrant. Or if you are from a certain part of the world, of a certain skin tone or a Muslim.”

The resolution was introduced by freshman Rep. Max Miller of Ohio, one of two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives. He said Omar’s comments threatened U.S. relations with a key ally, Israel, “the forever home of the Jewish people.”

“Given her biased comments against Israel and against Jewish people, how can she serve as an objective decision-maker on the committee?” Miller asked.

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, followed with a passionate defense of his fellow Minnesota lawmaker. He said Omar’s comments often offended him and caused “personal pain to me and others.” But Phillips said he has spoken face-to-face with Omar over her controversial comments and that he and “90% of the Jewish members of Congress” supported that she remain on the foreign affairs panel “because we believe in the human capacity to learn from our mistakes.”

Democrats said Speaker Kevin McCarthy and fellow House GOP members targeted Omar because former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, successfully stripped Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, of all of their committee jobs.

Greene caused an uproar for her support of online comments encouraging violence against Democratic officials. Gosar was sanctioned by Pelosi for posting a violent animated video on his social media that showed him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and attacking President Biden.

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“It’s about political revenge. That’s what it is about,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York.

McCarthy, who has sought Omar’s removal for months, denied it was a “tit-for-tat.” He said if it were so, Omar would have been removed from other committees.

“I think in moving forward, every single member of Congress has a responsibility to how they carry themselves,” McCarthy said.

While Omar lost her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday, she remains on the House Education and Workforce Committee. She was in line to be the highest-ranking Democrat on a panel on the Foreign Affairs Committee with jurisdiction over policies affecting Africa.

Earlier this week, she announced she planned to create a “U.S.-Africa Policy Working Group” that would aim to “be a clearinghouse for active, sincere, and consistent engagement with experts and policymakers working with and in Africa.”

On Thursday afternoon, Jeffries said he would seat Omar on a new committee, the House Budget Committee, which sets overall spending and debt limits. Omar has sought a seat on the coveted Appropriations Committee.

During the debate on Omar’s resolution, several Democrats cited instances in which Republican members made what they said were anti-Semitic remarks. Those included fundraising efforts by McCarthy and Emmer that accused Democratic fundraisers George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg – all Jewish – to “buy” the midterm election and Greene’s 2018 Facebook post that said the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family, were connected to the wildfires in California.

“A blatant double standard is being applied here,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-New York.

Last week, McCarthy used his authority to remove Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both Californians, from seats on the House Intelligence Committee.

McCarthy could punish the California Democrats because the intelligence panel is a “select” committee whose members are chosen by leadership. But a vote of the full House was needed to oust Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, a “standing” committee with authority to produce legislation.

This story was updated to include Omar’s appointment to the House Budget Committee.