(WABNEWS) — The Republican-led House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.
House Republicans argued that Omar should not serve on the committee in light of statements he has made in the past regarding Israel, which have been criticized by members of both parties as anti-Semitic. Democrats, however, criticized the move to oust Omar, arguing that it amounts to an act of political revenge and that the Minnesota Democrat has already been held accountable for her past comments. The vote came out 218 to 211. Republican Rep. David Joyce of Ohio voted “present.”
Omar was defiant in a pre-vote speech: “My leadership and my voice will not be silenced if I am not on this committee for a term. My voice will get louder and louder,” he said. “So whether you vote or not, I am here to stay, and I am here to be a voice against injustice and advocate for a better world,” added the congresswoman.RELATED
After the vote, Omar spoke to reporters, calling the move “revenge.”
“This one vote was revenge, it was about making sure that a particular voice and perspective wasn’t on the committee because they didn’t agree with it. These are the people talking about cancel culture. These are the people who talk about upholding the First Amendment. These are the people who say they are champions of free speech, and today they chose to say that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, because she is a Muslim and an immigrant, cannot be a voice on foreign affairs,” she stated.
The decision comes after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy officially denied seats on the House Intelligence Committee to Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, the panel’s former chairman, which was also condemned by democrats.
McCarthy promised last year that if Republicans regained a majority in the House, he would strip Schiff, Swalwell and Omar of committee appointments, arguing that Democrats created a “new standard” when holding a majority by removing Republican representatives. Marjorie Taylor Greene, from Georgia, and Paul Gosar, from Arizona, from the violent publications and rhetoric commissions.
House Republicans, now in a majority, have once again given new congressional committee appropriations to Greene and Gosar.
The Democratic leader of the House, Hakeem Jeffries, also accused the Republicans on Thursday of “political revenge.” In turn, he defended the decision by Democrats in the previous Congress to remove Republicans from commission assignments, arguing that both incited violence against their colleagues.
“The line must be drawn when members of Congress actively threaten violence against their own colleagues,” Jeffries said, adding: “We take violent threats seriously because we have lived through them.”
In 2019, Omar issued a public apology after facing backlash for tweets that were condemned by both parties. The apology came after the Minnesota Democrat faced a wave of widespread criticism for suggesting that Republican support for Israel was fueled by donations from the American-Israel Public Affairs Commission (AIPAC), a prominent pro-Israel group.
There have been other incidents, too: In 2021, a group of Jewish Democrats accused Omar of equating the US and Israel with the Taliban and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group designated a US terrorist organization. In response, Omar said that she “in no way equated terrorist organizations with democratic countries.”
Greene and Gosar, who will now have commission assignments, have also faced bipartisan criticism. Last year, Republican leaders in Congress condemned both lawmakers for speaking at a conference on white nationalism.
Greene was speaking at the America First Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, an event organized by far-right activist Nick Fuentes as an alternative to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Gosar, for his part, made an appearance at the First American Political Action Conference via pre-recorded video, HuffPost reported. Gosar also attended the same conference last year.
Greene defended his move in a lengthy statement, dismissing the criticism as “false divisions and false accusations.” He also proclaimed that he will not “cancel” other conservatives, even if he finds his statements “tacky, misguided or even repulsive at times.”
A WABNEWS KFile review of Gosar’s events and social media posts over the years found that the lawmaker has a long association with white nationalists, a pro-Nazi blogger and far-right fringe players. A Gosar spokesman declined to answer specific questions about the congressman’s associations.
In 2021, Greene apologized for his “offensive” comments, comparing Capitol Hill mask rules to Holocaust rules, following his visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Omar, Schiff and Swalwell have denounced McCarthy’s attempts to remove them from the commission positions. “Kevin McCarthy’s purely partisan moves to strip us of our commission are not only a political stunt, but also a blow to the integrity of our democratic institution and a threat to our national security,” Omar said at a recent press conference where he spoke along with Schiff and Swalwell.
Democrats also argued the move is hypocritical by pointing to the fact that embattled Republican Rep. George Santos, who faces mounting legal troubles and calls to resign for lying extensively about his resume and identity, received seats on two committees.
However, in an abrupt change of course, Santos told the Republican House conference on Tuesday — a meeting that took place behind closed doors — that he wants to leave the two committees in which he was appointed until his problems are resolved, three members told WABNEWS.
McCarthy has the power to unilaterally bar Schiff and Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee because it is a select committee. However, removing Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee required a vote of the full House of Representatives.
McCarthy told WABNEWS Tuesday night that he had the votes to oust Omar. The claim came after House Republican leaders managed to block the votes of several members of their conference who were resisting the measure.
One such GOP member, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, announced Tuesday that she was prepared to support a resolution to oust Omar, citing the addition of “due process language.”
“I appreciate Chairman McCarthy’s willingness to address legitimate concerns and add due process language to our resolution. Deliberation and debate are vital to our institution, not top-down approaches,” the congresswoman said in a statement.
Spartz had previously indicated that he was opposed to removing the three Democratic lawmakers from the committees.
Last week, Spartz issued a statement referencing how Democrats had ousted Greene and Gosar from the committees. “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Speaker Pelosi took unprecedented steps in the last Congress to remove Representatives Greene and Gosar from her committees without due process. Speaker McCarthy is taking unprecedented steps in this Congress to deny you some appropriations to minority commissions without due process again,” the congresswoman said at the time.
Then led by Democrats, the House of Representatives voted in 2021 to remove Greene from committee appointments in the wake of his inflammatory and violent statements, including a report by WABNEWS’s KFile in which he repeatedly indicated his support for the execution of prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress. Eleven House Republicans joined Democrats at the time in supporting the measure.
The Democratic-led House also voted that year to pass a resolution censuring Gosar that stripped him of commission appropriations in a rebuke to the Arizona Republican for posting a photoshopped anime video on social media that featured him. killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden. Two House Republicans voted with Democrats at the time to pass the resolution.
WABNEWS’s Nicky Robertson, Kristin Wilson, Morgan Rimmer, Melanie Zanona and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.