Ilhan Omar defiant as Republicans oust her from key House committee

The Guardian – Lauren Gambino/Chris Stein/Martin Pengelly – 2 Feb 2023

Republicans voted to expel Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar from the House foreign affairs committee on Thursday as punishment for her past remarks on Israel. Democrats objected, saying the move was about revenge after Democrats removed far-right extremists in the last Congress.

A majority of 218 GOP lawmakers supported Omar’s expulsion from the committee, which is tasked with handling legislation and holding hearings affecting America’s diplomatic relations. One Republican lawmaker voted “present”.

Omar struck a defiant note in a speech shortly before the votes were counted, accusing Republicans of trying to silence her because she is a Muslim immigrant, and promising to continue speaking out.

“Is anyone surprised that I am 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? Frankly, it is expected because when you push power, power pushes back,” Omar 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. So take your votes or not. I am here to stay’ and I am here to be a voice against harms around the world and advocate for a better world.”

The Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, had made removing Omar one of his first tasks after being elected the chamber’s leader last month following a lengthy battle with the party’s far-right and 15 rounds of balloting. A small group of Republicans had initially objected to the effort, before changing their minds in recent days.

At the Capitol on Wednesday, McCarthy expressed confidence that he had “enough votes” to pass the resolution with his razor-thin majority, after the House moved swiftly to set up the vote, holding an “emergency meeting” of the rules committee on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, the chamber voted on party lines to move forward with the resolution, which explicitly condemns comments Omar made about Israel that drew accusations by Republicans and some Democrats of antisemitism.

Omar has apologized and said she has come to understand her remarks played on antisemitic tropes.

The lawmaker, who in 2018 became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, routinely faces violent threats and bigotry, including from other lawmakers.

She once called McCarthy a “liar and a coward” after he refused to condemn remarks by Lauren Boebert, a Colorado extremist Omar said was a “buffoon” and a “bigot”.

“These threats increase whenever Republicans put a target on my back,” Omar said on Wednesday, sharing audio of a death threat her office received. “They can continue to target me, but they will never stop me from fighting for a more just world.”

On Wednesday the Republican chair of the foreign affairs committee, Michael McCaul of Texas, told reporters: “It’s just that her worldview of Israel is so diametrically opposed to the committee’s. I don’t mind having differences of opinion, but this goes beyond that.”

Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, countered: “You cannot remove a member of Congress from a committee simply because you do not agree with their views. This is both ludicrous and dangerous.”

Omar has said her removal “is about revenge” and “appeasing the former president”, Donald Trump, who once said Omar and three other progressive congresswomen of color should “go back” to where they came from.

Last Sunday, Omar told CNN her removal was “motivated by the fact that many of these members don’t believe a Muslim, a refugee, an African should even be in Congress, let alone have the opportunity to serve on the foreign affairs committee”.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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