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Democrats, GOP back off plans to rebuke Ilhan Omar, Marjorie Taylor Greene

Amid concerns of political fallout, the rival parties retreat from efforts to punish the two lawmakers accused of antisemitism

This combination of photos from the Associated Press shows Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, left, and Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, and AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
This combination of photos from the Associated Press shows Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, left, and Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, and AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats and Republicans backed away Wednesday from a tit-for-tat battle over punishing firebrand lawmakers from the other party, setting aside for now a fight that risked inflicting political damage on each side.

The mutual reluctance to battle anew over statements by Representatives Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, reflects concerns that a partisan attack would only ease the headaches that each lawmaker has inflicted on her own party. Each side also worries that such a fight would give the targeted lawmaker fresh attention and bolster their already formidable fundraising abilities.

A Republican attempt to strip Omar of her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee would distract from Democratic divisions over her recent remarks, a top GOP aide said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe closed-door conversations.

Omar last week tweeted about “unthinkable atrocities” committed by the United States, Israel, Hamas and the Taliban. House Democratic leaders and a dozen Jewish Democratic lawmakers complained that those remarks drew a false and damaging equivalence between the two countries and the hard-line groups. Omar later said she was not drawing “a moral comparison.”

Omar’s comments had prompted progressive lawmakers to rally around her and criticize their Democratic colleagues for mistreating women of color in the party, in an embarrassing display of divisiveness. “Enough with the anti-Blackness and Islamophobia,” tweeted Democratic Representative Cori Bush of Missouri. Omar is one of two Muslim women in Congress.

Even so, several Democrats said any GOP effort to strip Omar of her committee assignments would be defeated, despite Democrats’ narrow majority.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said Tuesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, should remove Omar from the committee. Pelosi has shown no interest in doing that.

Speaking on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” McCarthy also said that if Republicans win House control in the 2022 elections, “Omar would not be serving on Foreign Affairs, or anybody that has an antisemitic, anti-American view.”

At a closed-door House GOP meeting later Tuesday, no rank-and-file lawmakers went to the microphones to talk about Omar, the Republican aide said.

Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar addresses media after lunch at the Mercado Central in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on August 11, 2020, primary election day in Minnesota. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Brad Schneider of Illinois said late Wednesday that he was abandoning his plan for a House vote censuring Greene.

Greene in May compared required mask wearing in the House chamber, imposed by Pelosi to protect against COVID-19, to Nazis requiring Jews to wear a “gold star” and herding them into gas chambers during the Holocaust. The stars were actually yellow.

Greene apologized for her remarks Monday, telling reporters she had just visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and saying, “There’s no comparison and there never ever will be.”

In a statement, Schneider said he was accepting her apology and would hold off “at this time.”

He added: “I hope that Congress can take the necessary steps to serve as a model to a nation desperately in need of leaders willing to correct themselves when they are wrong.”

Greene, a first-term hard-right conservative, has long promoted conspiracy theories. She also has indicated support on social media for calls for violence, including — before her election — suggesting support for shooting Pelosi in the head.

The House took the rare step of stripping Greene of her committee assignments in February for her statements. All but 11 Republicans opposed that move.

Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia arrives to speak about her bill to audit the correspondence and financial statements of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In 2019 shortly after Omar arrived in Congress, the House approved a resolution condemning antisemitism and other forms of bigotry — without mentioning her — after she made remarks that critics said accused Israel supporters of having dual allegiances. Those included a tweet saying, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” a reference to $100 bills that some said suggested Israel’s backers were motivated by political contributions.

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